”War God” by Graham Hancock

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”War God” by Graham Hancock
By Jonathan Roseland

Book review: Masterful magical realism!

I recently finished the third book in the compelling historical fiction series ”War God” by Graham Hancock, about the Spanish conquest of Mexico by Cortés and his band of conquistadors.

What captures your attention for hours on end and makes the novel such a page-turner is its descriptions of the scale and severity of violence. This book is a snapshot of probably one of the very most violent episodes in human history; when one of the most ambitious men in the world, Hernán Cortés, with a technologically superior force of several hundred conquistadors took on an empire of possibly as many as 30 million Aztecs and ultimately prevailed.

Cortes and Montezuma, the two most powerful men in the Northern Hemisphere, who were simultaneously friends and geopolitical rivals presided over and in some cases carried out with their own hands utterly psychopathic violence and destruction.

One of the themes of the fiction series is that there is a murderous demon stalking humanity behind the scenes of history demanding ever greater and bloodier human sacrifices. Priests, philosophers, and conspiracy theorists disagree as to whether there is actually just such a demon or whether it’s merely an archetype for a dark recess of our evolutionary biology but we can’t deny its influence on the world.

History was a factory operated by and producing traumatized human beings.

There’s a book that I DO NOT recommend reading called The Origins of War in Child Abuse, which is quite self-explanatory and (hopefully) to you, self-evident. The idea is that history has just been this nasty cycle of children being badly abused and then growing up to participate in and start wars. You don’t have to look far back in your own lineage and familial history to find events where your ancestors were subjected to genocide, warfare, or large-scale violence. It’s not so hyperbolic to say that the demon; the war god to whom Montezuma sacrificed so many virgins, still lurks in your own genes, waiting like Golem in that cave.

Hollywood is notorious for producing gratuitously violent movies and supposedly a film about the Hernán and Montezuma is in pre-production but there’s no way it will really capture it. I’ve also watched a handful of the History Channel or National Geographic documentaries on the period and they still don’t capture this historical epic the way these novels do, if it’s been a while since you were enraptured by a novel, read War God.

Update: I have to remove a star from my final rating of this series because Hancock never bothered to finish it. The third book ends on the cliffhanger of the Night of Sorrows where the conquistadors make their bloody escape from Tenochtitlan.

If you prefer to listen…

There’s an almost equally compelling 4-part podcast series by Daniele Bolelli on The Conquest of Mexico

The Conquest of Mexico


War God: Nights of the Witch, by Graham Hancock [Book Trailer]

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