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Children's LiteratureThe Spanish conquest of the vast Inca empire in South America is an amazing tale of greed, destruction, and blood. Pizarro, illiterate and poverty-stricken, was able to rise to power and wealth through the single-minded pursuit of gold and an utter indifference to the fate of the native inhabitants he killed and enslaved. Somervill does not spare him or his partner and brothers as she relates their brutal exploits and quarrels, Pizarro's massacre of the Incas, and his extortion of huge amounts of gold and silver to ransom their chief, Atahuallpa, whom he then had tried and executed. Pizarro ultimately met his death in a pool of blood, but not before becoming fabulously rich, ruling Peru, and founding the city of Lima. While a little is told about the Inca civilization, middle readers will surely want to know more than can be included here; teachers might like to look up The Incas by Tim Wood (Viking, 1996) or Carmen Bernand's The Incas: People of the Sun (Abrams, 1993) for a fuller picture of their achievements and artifacts. Illustrations are contemporary prints (colored), modern photographs, and a few reproductions of extraordinary drawings by Guaman Pomo, a sixteenth-century native of Peru. This volume of the "Signature Lives" series provides many possibilities for discussion—invasion and occupation of another land, use of torture, destruction of a civilization, religious conflict, imperial greed—that are only too relevant in today's violent world. Included are a time line, sidebars, bibliographies, and a glossary. 2005, Compass Point, Ages 9 to 13.
—Barbara L. Talcroft