Once upon a time ?"
So begins the story of "The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire," as told by the writer, translator and economist C.M. Mayo. Those familiar four little words bring us directly to a wonderfully busy intersection, the intersection between fairy tale and history, and from that spot, Mayo leads us down a myriad of fascinating trails. For, as the book's frontispiece informs us, this fairy tale about princes and princesses is based on a true story. And the glorious thing about true stories is the way in which they extend endlessly in all directions.
"The Last Prince" is Mayo's first novel, and it is a real pleasure to see her sharply focused, academic intelligence stretch comfortably out into the expanses that the form offers. It is a hefty, sprawling work, more than 400 pages long, but at no point does it begin to sag under its own weight. Perhaps because its spread is solidly supported by facts, Mayo's intricate plot trips along at a natural, inexorable pace, easily traveling the sweeping map she has laid out for it, from Washington to Mexico City and all the way to the imperial halls of Europe.
P.S. Visit the novel's webpage (photos and excerpts, etc.) More anon.