Book Review: Malinalli of the Fifth Sun by Helen Heightsman Gordon

September 5, 2012
Article first published asBook Review:Malinalli of the Fifth Sun: The Slave Girl Who Changed the Fate of Mexico and Spainby Helen Gordon Heightsmanon Blogcritics.

Malinalli of the Fifth Sun: The Slave Girl Who Changed the Fate of Mexico and Spainby Helen Heightsman Gordon is a historical fiction novel taking place in South America during Hernán Cortés’ time. Malinalli was an important person in Cortés’ entourage who have been vilified throughout the ages.

The pub­lisher is giv­ing away one copy of this book—use the Raf­fle­copter form at the end of the post to enter.

  • 672 pages
  • Publisher: iUniverse (December 16, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1462064930

Book Review Malinalli of the Fifth Sun The Slave Girl Who Changed the Fate of Mexico and Spain by Helen Gordon Heightsman

My rating for Malinalli of the Fifth Sun – 4

Buy this book in paper or electronic format.

More Books by Helen Gordon Heightsman

Malinalli of the Fifth Sun: The Slave Girl Who Changed the Fate of Mexico and Spain by Helen Heightsman Gordon (blog | Facebook) aims to tell a story in history which many people are not aware of. Malinalli was a real person in Mexican history , known by several different names, who is often overlooked or vilified.

The story is told through various view points, Cortés, Malinalli’s family, and acquaintances but mainly of Malinalli since this is her story. Since the history is complex, even though the story spans a relatively short time (about 16 years) there are parts of the book which simply read as a history book (albeit a very interesting one) in order to move he story faster.

The main reason I found that the author chose to tell the story thorough various points of view, especially those whom I think are not actual historical characters (village traders, wife of a chief, etc.) is to introduce the reader into early culture, religion and traditions of the indigenous Mexican people. The author brought up points in the book which, through the story, give the reader some food for thought. For example, the Spanish trying to Christianize the locals, claiming their G-d is the one true G-d and bashing idol worshiping. They broke and disgraced the locals’ idols only to … replace them with their own idols.

I’m glad I read this book, it taught me a lot about a culture I knew almost nothing about in a very interesting manner. To be honest I almost passed on it because the cover looked like some sort of quickly put together tourist guide. I know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and this novel is a prime example of that saying – but we all do (at least we all pre-judge a book by its cover).

The research in this book is superb and the storytelling excellent and flows smoothly. Ms. Gordon writes without prejudice Cortés does some very good things as well as the bad things we all remember. Mallinali, who is known as a traitor just as much as a heroine, is also fully fleshed out, written as a real person with hopes, faults and tragedies. The Spanish attitude that they know everything better is something that we should take to heart whenever we look down on another culture, even if they seem “backwards”.

The author includes pronunciation guides, calendar which approximate the Aztec calendar to the European one, a short but wonderful explanation of how the ancients counted their days and more wonderful features (unfortunately no maps) which really enhance the reading experience. Together with a reading list which the author suggests, her blog is also a fountain of information about the subject which is highly recommended.

Born to a high class family, Malinalli’s life take a turn to worst when her beloved father dies. Her stepfather intends on harming her, but instead sells her to slavery. In 1519, Malinalli becomes one of twenty slaves given to Conquistador Hernán Cortés and starts her Christian life as Marina or Doña Marina.

Not only beautiful, but also a gifted translator Malinalli becomes in integral part of Cortés’ professional and personal life. In fact Cortés and Mailinalli become such an integral part of each other that they were referred to by the same name – La Malinche.

Buy this book in paper or electronic format.

More Books by Helen Gordon Heightsman


  • Give­away ends: September 12, 2012

  • US/Canada Ship­ping Addresses Only

  • No PO Boxes

  • Win­ners will have 24 hours to write back with their address, oth­er­wise an alter­nate win­ner will be picked

Congratulations: meikleblog@

Zohar – Man of la Book
Disclaimer: I got t his book for free

BOOK BLOGGERS – Have you read Malinalli of the Fifth Sun? If so link up your review below:

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  • VesperSeptember 5, 2012 at 10:56 am

    my email address is meikleblog at gmail dot com. Love books based on history

  • Julie RupertSeptember 5, 2012 at 3:07 pm
  • Helen Heightsman GordonSeptember 5, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    Thank you ever so much for an excellent review of MALINALLI OF THE FIFTH SUN. You clearly understood the story and the importance of the ancient Mayas and Aztecs. I was pleased to see you acknowledge the complexity of the historical characters including faults and virtues. I love your analysis and appreciate your recommendation.
    Could you please correct the author’s name to read
    Helen Heightsman Gordon
    and I’d like to subscribe to your rss feed. My email is
    Thanks again
    Helen H. Gordon

  • MargaretSeptember 5, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    Thanks for the giveaway!


  • Marlene VSeptember 9, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    Thanks for the chance to win.

  • AshleyJuly 11, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    I have fallen into that trap of pre-judging a book by it’s cover lately too. Both “Daughter of the King” and “The Forth Conspiracy” were books I almost overlooked because of cover art but ended up enjoying them both. This one sounds really good. I love books that are based on strongly in history yet incorporate mild fictional elements.

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