The Mayan Red Queen: Tz’aakb’u Ahau of Palenque received the Global Ebook Silver Medal Award in Fiction-Historical Literature-Ancient Worlds for 2016.
It was an exciting moment when I received the notice in August that my book won a Silver Medal in the Dan Poynter Global Ebook Awards for 2016!
This story, Book 3 in the Mists of Palenque Series, is about the historic Mayan woman who became known as “The Red Queen.”
What we know about her is limited. Archeologists discovered her tomb at Palenque in 1994, her skeleton completely permeated by cinnabar, a form of mercuric oxide that leaves a red residue. The Mayas used cinnabar as a preservative, but only for bodies of elite nobles and rulers. Her burial was richly adorned with jade, shells, beads, and artifacts of bone or ceramic, and her face covered by a jadeite mask. They determined that she lived in the mid-seventh century CE, died around age 60, and must have been highly regarded because of her interment inside a large stone sarcophagus.
Mask of Red Queen – Jade and Jadeite
Later research determined that she came from a nearby city and was unrelated to the ruling family of Palenque. When hieroglyphs were deciphered at Palenque, we learned that she was married to the famous ruler K’inich Janaab Pakal in 626 CE, bore him three or four sons, and died in 672 CE. Her memorial pyramid adjoined the soaring Temple of the Inscriptions in which Pakal was buried. Because of her red skeleton, she was called “The Red Queen” by archeologists. Her Mayan name was Tz’aakb’u Ahau, “Maker of a Progression of Lords.” And she certainly did produce a succession of lords, as two of her sons became rulers after Pakal’s death, and a third son fathered the next ruler, Pakal’s grandson.
These scant facts underlie my story about Tz’aakb’u Ahau, whom I give the birth name Lalak. Fleshing out her personality, her hopes and fears, her emotions, and choices she made through her life was my challenge as a writer of historical fiction.
Lalak in my story lived over thirteen centuries ago, but her yearnings and challenges would sound familiar to modern women. She wanted to fit into her new city, find acceptance by her new family, fulfill her obligations in life, and most of all, win the heart of her new husband. What makes Lalak’s situation different is that she faced an arranged marriage with the most powerful young ruler in that Maya region, who just happened to be in love with someone else. Lalak was immediately attracted to him and loved him deeply, but he remained distant. She learned that her mother-in-law had banished the woman he wanted; choosing Lalak as his wife in the hope he would never love her – a homely, shy, and naive girl. Lalak came from a small outlying city, and although she had pristine blood lines making her eligible for such a match, her childhood was chaotic due to family enmities and she lacked preparation for high court protocols and intrigues.
The Red Queen
Wife of Pakal, called Lalak in this story
Poorly equipped to meet such challenges, Lalak struggled to find her place and understand the dynamics of Palenque’s ruling family. She suffered under her mother-in-law’s criticism and faced repeated losses through miscarriages. She must grow from a naive and innocent girl into a strong woman capable of fulfilling a queen’s role. Her quest to find a way into Pakal’s heart required developing her feminine powers and expanding her wisdom, assuming her rightful status by facing down her mother-in-law and gaining respect from the sophisticated nobles of her city.
As Lalak‘s story unfolds against the rich backdrop of the Maya Classic Period, you will be immersed in fascinating aspects of Maya culture. There are frightening Underworld journeys where Death Lords hover, calendar rituals requiring the ultimate offering of one’s own blood, and use of sexual alchemy to resurrect lost portals to the Gods and Ancestors. Details of daily life contrast with the dazzling opulence of high court rituals, herbal and healing lore mixes with the sensuous dance and gastronomic delights of feasts, and the amazing advanced knowledge the Mayas had about building construction and astronomy is revealed.