Top positive review
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An exceptional book with vibrant characters, and a story focusing on the lust for gold, and the consequences of one's actions
on May 20, 2016
The setting is in New Spain, the area of North America occupied by Spain during the 1500's. The year is 1541, with a young seventeen year old man being held in a small prison cell in a fortress in Vera Cruz. In the opening chapter, we meet Esteban de Sandoval, a cartographer or map maker, as he is being questioned by the jailor, Don Felipe. We immediately learn that Sandoval is being charged with defrauding the King of Spain from his share of one-fifth on a treasure of gold, that Sandoval has hidden in a remote wilderness. Don Felipe is treating him kindly by bringing paper, quills, an inkwell and candle because he wishes for Sandoval to draw him a map of Cibola, the area in which the gold was found, and a map showing the location of where the gold is hidden. By candlelight, Sandoval begins to work on a map from memory, but most importantly, he begins to write his story of what has brought him to this moment. We learn that Sandoval was on a Spanish ship, when he left with a small crew of adventurers led by Captain Mendoza, a gold hungry opportunist. They join up with Coronado's army where they meet Zia, a young Indian girl who speaks five languages, and Father Francisco, who wishes to preach Christ to the natives. Soon they leave Coronado and with Zia as guide and interpreter, set off in search of Indian tribes said to have gold. The story fluctuates Sandoval's writing of what happened on the quest, and what is happening in the prison and courtroom. There is lots of excitement and danger from the Indians, deception by Mendoza and his soldiers, and a deepening affection between Sandoval, Zia, and Father Francisco. Sandoval is constantly under scrutiny by everyone, as they seek to find where he has hidden the treasure. The trial will hold you spellbound, and there are many twists to the story, as well as a surprising ending. This book is a classic. I could hardly put it down. The ending will leave you thinking about the outcome. This is an exceptional story that I will be thinking about for a long time to come.