Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Book Review: Chronicle of the Mound Builders by Elle Marie


Archaeologist Dr. Angela Hunter discovers an ancient codex at a Mississippian Indian dig site in the St. Louis area. Knowing the Mississippians, or Mound Builders, had no written language, she is determined to solve the mystery of the 700-year-old, perfectly preserved codex.

In the early 1300’s, an Aztec family is torn apart. A judge rebelling against the Aztec tradition of human sacrifice is cursed and escapes his enemies with his 12-year-old son. They travel from the Gulf of Mexico up the Mississippi River to settle in the thriving community of Migaduha, modern-day Cahokia Mounds, Illinois.

Angela recognizes the symbols as Aztec pictograms and begins to translate the story. However, other forces also want the codex and will do anything to get it. Can she learn the secrets of the chronicle before the tragic events of the past are repeated today?

CreateSpace | October 29, 2012 | 416 pages

My Review

3.5 Stars

Chronicle of the Mound Builders, Elle Marie's first novel, is set primarily in what is now the state of Missouri in both the early 14th century and in the modern day.  While working on a Mississippian Indian archeological dig in the St. Louis area, Dr. Angela Hunter and her team discover a perfectly preserved 700-year old jar that contains a codex; a codex that could provide much needed information about the life and culture of the Mississippian Indians, also known as the Mound Builders, a people about which little is known.  Recognizing the importance of the find, Angela immediately sets out to translate the codex, which appears to be based on Aztec symbols even though the codex was found in an area far removed from the Aztec empire.  But Angela is not the only one with an interest in the ancient codex.   Unlike Angela, who views the codex as an important historical artifact, the others seeking the codex are doing so to promote their own ends and will stop at nothing to get their hands on it.

Running parallel to Angela's narrative is the story of Aztec judge Chipahua and his young son Tototl, who are forced to flee their home after being cursed by a powerful Aztec priest.  Seeking to get as far from their home as possible, Chipahua and Tototl make their way up the Mississippi river, eventually settling in the city of Migaduha where they are able to establish a new life for themselves.  Unfortunately, Chipahua and Tototl's peaceful existence comes to an abrupt end when the town in which they've settled finds itself at the mercy of forces beyond human control.   The codex tells their story. 

Overall I found Chronicle of the Mound Builders to be an entertaining read.  Both the modern day and ancient story lines are interesting and move along at a quick pace.  Although the novel features several different narratives, the flow from one narrative to another is smooth.  Marie also does a nice job of linking all the narratives together.  Although I do wish a few of the modern-day characters had been more fully fleshed out, I nevertheless found them engaging, especially Angela.  While I enjoyed the modern-day component of the narrative, the highlight of this novel for me was the story line featuring Chipahua and Tototl.  Having read very little historical fiction set in North America prior to the arrival of Europeans, I found Chipahua and Tototl's story fascinating, especially where it featured elements of Aztec and Mississippian culture and ways of life.  Not being familiar with the Mound Builders, one of the first things I did upon finishing the book was to look up information on them in an effort to find out more.   The only issue I had with the novel is that I had to stretch my imagination a little too far when it came to the conclusion of both the modern-day and historical story lines.  As such, while I still found the ending of the novel enjoyable, I would have preferred it to have been a little more plausible. 

Recommended to readers interested in archeology, Native American history and time slip novels. 

Note: I was provided with a copy of this novel as part of Elle Marie's virtual book tour in exchange for a fair and honest review.  


Chronicles of the Mound Builders is currently on tour.  Click here to check out the tour schedule.  

About the Author

Coming from a large family of readers, Elle Marie grew up with a love of reading. Her passion for reading led to a desire to write. After first publishing a nonfiction book, Living the Thin Life, she turned to fiction.

A visit to Cahokia Mounds sparked a fascination with the mysterious Mound Builders, about whom so little is known. What was their culture like? How did ordinary people live in the 14th century? What caused the civilization to vanish, seemingly overnight? She put her imagination to work and came up with a story line that put it all together. Extensive research enabled her to create a believable, engrossing world.

By day, she works in the information technology field at a large financial services firm. She is a graduate of the Missouri University of Science & Technology and lives in the St. Louis area with her husband. Chronicle of the Mound Builders is her first novel.

To learn more check out the official website by clicking here.  

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