Blood, Feathers & Holy Men

a novel by Ben Nuttall-Smith

Synopsis

This is a story of Quétzalcoatl – a major Toltec, Mayan and Aztec deity, connecting the ancient myth to a Tenth Century European Irish priest, a handful of young monks, two Norsemen, and an Irish slave-girl.

When Hernando Cortés arrived in Mexico in 1519 Montezuma, the Aztec emperor, believed him to be the god Quétzalcoatl returning, as promised.

In 910, an Irish priest and five monks are shipwrecked in the Hebrides and taken as slaves by Norse traders. Through a series of cataclysmic geophysical events, the Norse ship is pushed to a strange new land, where the priest, three monks, the Irish girl and two Norsemen are left to learn the ways of the natives.

One monk – the priest's spiritual rival – marries a chief's daughter and eventually becomes a shaman, opening the gate to a new understanding but contributing to a spiritual crises for the priest who escapes into madness. The mad priest and his companions travel on, reaching the Gulf of Mexico. The priest recovers his sanity and the Europeans seem content to remain among the fishermen natives.

Miraculously, they find remnants of the serpent-headed Norse ship and decide to rebuild her. With a large contingency of Toltec warriors, the Europeans sail to Yucatan where the priest founds a new Toltec capital city in the desert, is made king, and becomes an historical embodiment of the Mayan-Toltec god Quétzalcoatl.

The shaman-monk is summoned by visions to rescue the priest from forces of evil. Battles are fought and good men die. When everything seems to have been resolved, fate steps in fulfilling the mystery, beauty and horror of the Quétzalcoatl myth.

"Blood, Feathers and Holy Men rampages from monastic life in the old world to exotic practices on a distant continent. En route ... the lifestyles of impoverished Irish monks, marauding Vikings, the first nations in a new world ... Ben Nuttall-Smith has crafted a fascinating tale of enormous scope."
– Anthony Dalton

About the Author

Ben Nuttall-Smith taught Music, Theatre, Art, and Language until he retired in 1991. He now lives in Crescent Beach, near Vancouver B.C., where he writes, paints, makes music, and travels with his best friend and soulmate.

An active member of the Writers Union of Canada, the Canadian Authors' Association, the Federation of British Columbia Writers, and the Canadian Poetry Association, Ben has published three books of poetry Word Painting, Splashes of Light and Scribbles from Afar and an illustrated children's story Henry Hamster Esquire. His first novel Blood, Feathers and Holy Men was published by Libros Libertad in January, 2011.

Praise

"If you enjoyed Gary Jennings' Aztec Ben Nuttall-Smith's Blood Feathers and Holy Men is the book you've been waiting for. This blending of Irish, Norse, and Precolumbian mythology will keep you turning pages. Peopled with intriguing characters and with a meticulously researched historical background the action is non stop from shipwreck to Aztec sacrifice as the legend of Quétzalcoatl the feathered serpent is given a truly original twist."

– Patrick Taylor
New York Times and Globe and Mail best-selling author of the Irish Country series

"This far-reaching novel eloquently displays the author's love of history and storytelling. Blood, Feathers and Holy Men rampages from monastic life in the old world to exotic practices on a distant continent. En route the reader is treated to the lifestyles of impoverished Irish monks, marauding Vikings, the first nations in a new world and the early civilizations of what would one day become Central America. Ben Nuttall-Smith has crafted a fascinating tale of enormous scope."

– Anthony Dalton
National President,
Canadian Authors Association

"In the time-honoured tradition of historical novels, Ben Nuttall-Smith's Blood, Feathers and Holy Men skillfully weaves illuminating facts and engaging story and characters into a complex and colourful tapestry. As multiple cultures collide and commune, we are taken on an unparalleled adventure from the Emerald Isle to Iceland's windswept barrens to the boundless prairie and verdant forests of America to the steaming jungles of Mexico. We gain invaluable insights into the daily lives and grandeurs of the rich and creative First Nations cultures of the Americas as their destinies are played out in this sweeping saga of damnation and redemption."

– Sylvia Taylor
Executive Director,
Federation of BC Writers

"In this, his initial entry into historical fiction, Ben Nuttall-Smith offers unique and valuable perspectives to readers, based upon extensive research. In the current, dominant atmosphere of secularism and skepticism, he presents Christian clerics as his chief protagonists, and he describes First Nations tribes, during pre-Columbus times, as more culturally advanced than commonly thought. Most importantly, he vividly presents a remarkable way of life, in which man, nature, and the Divine are inseparable.

I heartily recommend this novel to teachers of early Christian and Native North American history and to all those who enjoy a tightly written, fast-paced, and highly entertaining read."

– David C. Manning
Retired educator & curriculum developer (Native Studies)