cover image INCAS: Book I: The Puma's Shadow

INCAS: Book I: The Puma's Shadow

, , trans. from the French by Alex Gilly. . Scribner, $14 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-0723-2

What Gary Jennings did for the Aztecs, Daniel attempts to do for the Incas. Based on the solid storytelling and lean, vivid prose of this first volume of a proposed trilogy (already a bestseller in France and Italy), he's on the right path. The novel's plot juxtaposes the adventures of two outsiders half a world away from each other but destined to meet: in South America the delicate mystic Anamaya, and in Spain the black sheep nobleman Gabriel Montelucar y Flores. Orphaned when the Incas decimated her tribe, Anamaya lands in the court of the Emperor Huayna Capac as a childhood companion to his spoiled daughter, Inti Palla. Anamaya's unique blue-eyed beauty convinces the emperor that she has been divinely sent. She becomes the guardian of the empire and chief confidante of Huayna Capac and later of his successor, the majestic warrior Atahualpa. Gabriel, meanwhile, endures nearly a year of imprisonment and torture at the hands of the Spanish Inquisition. His wealthy father pays for his release, then abruptly disowns him. Gabriel joins the nascent quest of adventurer Francisco Pizarro, who's lured by extravagant tales of Inca gold. Disease and in-fighting are just two of the ills plaguing the expedition. The book's spectacular climax is both an ending and a beginning (not since The Magic Mountain have star-crossed soul mates taken so long to get together); the opening chapter of volume two is included as a tease. Daniel's rich historical detail is in perfect proportion to his narrative, always enhancing and never slowing down the action, which is considerable. This is a robust and well-balanced adventure. (Aug. 6)