What most people know about the Maya begins and ends with the facts that they lived in Central America, they had bloody sacrifices, and the world will end in December. Beautiful Sacrifice takes the apocalyptic paranoia and turns it into a fast paced and interesting mystery surrounding violent human sacrifices, missing artifacts, and the mysterious cult of a Mayan god.
Dr. Lina Taylor is a respected expert on Maya history and artifacts, and also part Maya herself; she is descended from a royal bloodline that pre-dates the Spanish Conquest. When a number of highly valuable and rare artifacts go missing from a government evidence storage facility, Hunter Johnston – the friend of the agent whose job is on the line for the loss – goes to Lina to get advice and help. Hunter is a casual student in one of her classes, with whom she has had coffee and conversation, but both are interested in more.
Things get dangerous really quickly when they find nearly a dozen bodies and a bloody sacrifice room, and a kidnapping attempt on Lina nearly kills Hunter’s friend. The two end up going to Mexico to her family’s land, after the artifacts are linked to the ruins there, and must figure out who the mysterious “El Maya” is before midnight on the 21st of December, when the final sacrifice will be made.
With the exception of a massive info dump at the beginning, the book was a great suspense read. It had a unique plot, well-paced action, and a strong romance. Lina and Hunter had great chemistry together, and their feelings were believable. When one fears the other dead and admits they love the other, it does not feel sudden or like a crisis epiphany that won’t hold up against real life; it is something they both knew, just hadn’t vocalized.
The Maya plot was different and, well, informative. The author clearly did a significant amount of research about the history, culture, language, and art of the Mayas. I learned while reading, which is always a good thing, and found the cultural aspects of the novel fascinating. When I first found out the book had a Mayan theme, leading up to the apocalyptic prediction in December, I had to roll my eyes a bit, thinking it would be a book version of the movie 2012. It wasn’t, but it still made an exciting novel. I thought it was all really interesting, and, for the most part, the bits beyond general knowledge fit seamlessly into the plot.
Lina’s family is complicated and, at times, ugly. Her father is a single-minded academic who has been banished by academia for his association with his wife, a mercenary artifacts dealer whose priorities are far from historical value. It is easy to see where Lina gets certain traits, and also where she deviates significantly from her family. It’s an interesting dynamic, and added some depth to her character that otherwise would have been a bit flat.
Most people don’t know that much about Mayan history, and this book may be info-heavy, but it’s far from a text book. It’s exciting, fast paced, and has a great romance at the center. If you learn something along the way, it’s just a bonus.