Girl battles for survival in an exciting historical romance

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 May, 2009, 12:00am

The Goldsmith's Daughter
By Tanya Landman
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 978 1 4063 0707 8

Tanya Landman's second novel The Goldsmith's Daughter is a moving Romeo and Juliet tale set during the Spanish invasion of the Aztec Empire.

In 1519, the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes set off from his homeland with 11 ships, 500 men and 13 horses. They were bound for Mexico, where it was rumoured that gold paved the streets.

In November of that year, the Spanish army marched into the golden Aztec city of Tenochtitlan. The Emperor Montezuma peacefully received the newcomers, not understanding their motives. The Spanish army plundered Tenochtitlan of its gold, massacred its citizens and burnt the buildings to the ground.

The girl at the centre of Landman's intriguing historical romance is Itacate, the daughter of an Aztec goldsmith. The boy is Fernando, a young Spanish soldier in Cortes' army. The two teenagers meet in dangerous and tragic circumstances.

The Goldsmith's Daughter is an exciting but chilling insight into the ruthless destruction of an ancient civilisation as well as a touching and suspenseful romantic adventure.

Itacate is a spirited and fascinating heroine. Considered doomed at birth by her family when her mother dies and she and her twin brother live, Itacate is seen as a worthless addition to society. It is Mitotiqui, her brother, who has a true place in the family. He has a promising future as a warrior and craftsman.

But Itacate grows up determined to quietly change her destiny and survive in the harsh world that faces her.

When the goldsmith accidentally discovers that his now-teenage daughter has a talent for setting jewels, he risks everything and starts to train her as his apprentice. This is a secret that would mean death for all members of Itacate's family if it were ever discovered.

The arrival of the Spanish army changes everything. Itacate's father is forced to make a golden statue for the Aztec emperor to present to the Spaniard as a gift of goodwill.

While working in the imperial palace, Itacate meets Fernando and falls in love. The goldsmith's daughter now faces a future where there seems no hope of survival or happiness.

Landman paints a vivid picture of a remarkable civilization few people know much about. This is part of the novel's fascination, but Landman never forgets that she is also telling a story of human love and terrible twists of fate. She mixes both elements expertly in this dramatic and informative story.

John Millen can be contacted on