cover image The Gold Eaters

The Gold Eaters

Ronald Wright. Riverhead, $28.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-59463-462-8

Wright’s (Henderson’s Spear) latest historical novel tackles the complex and tragic story of Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro and his army of conquistadores, as they ravage and destroy Peru’s Inca civilization in their insatiable hunger for gold during the years 1526–1544. Waman, an adolescent fisherman in northern Peru, is captured at sea by a Spanish ship, revealing “how easily Christians become savages.” Waman is kept as a slave, to be Pizarro’s interpreter, during the expedition. Waman always thinks of escape, though because of his value to Pizarro, he knows it’s nearly impossible. The mighty Incan empire is decimated by Spanish-borne smallpox, and Waman’s family is dispersed in the chaos. Waman accompanies Pizarro to Spain, where the explorer appeals to the King and Queen for more support to return to conquer all of Peru. As years pass Waman witnesses Spanish duplicity, treachery, and brutality with false promises and cannons crushing Incan resistance, inciting an Incan civil war. When hoards of Incan gold and silver are discovered, greed, disease, and infighting among the Spaniards threatens the newest campaign. This is a rousing adventure tale of bold exploration and conquest, but best is Wright’s vivid portrayal of unrestrained 16th-century Spanish imperialism, complete with villains, victims, and a few heroes. Agent: Henry Dunow, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. (Nov.)