Historical fiction is an interesting genre. It’s flexible in that it allows for creative freedom, imagination, and vivid moments of sincerity not always possible in your average thrillers or crime novels. Anita Mason understood this when writing The Right Hand of the Sun. Set during Hernán Cortés’ conquest of the Aztec Empire, Mason’s book details not only the epic journey of the marauding Conquistadors, but a plethora of individuals within the expedition—all of their schemes, desires and passions hindering or helping the great Explorer.
The Right Hand of the Sun captures the idolized feeling of adventure necessary to the scope of the conquest of America; cultures vast and varied rendered authentically, historical figures portrayed with dignity yet without compromise. However, like most contemporary historical fiction, it fails to capture an overall sense of authenticity, forcing an awareness on the readers’ part of the narrative. It becomes distracted with numerous personal plotlines; characters break convention with oddly phrased monologues or confessions—the worst being vernacular that just doesn’t translate to their time-frame. Anita Mason attempts to portray Mesoamerica the same way Jorge Luis Borges could portray England, or how Robert Graves could portray Ancient Rome, but Mason doesn’t quite hit the mark.
Despite grumbling about experiences of authenticity, The Right Hand of the Sun is still a great read and worth looking for if you like historical fiction.