The Last Days Of The Incas

This narrative history (522 pages) was published in June of 2008 by Simon & Schuster. The book takes you to 16th-century Peru. Melissa read The Last Days Of The Incas and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.

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The Last Days Of The Incas

Kim MacQuarrie

How did Francesco Pizarro’s 168 Spanish conquistadors crush an empire of 10 million Incas? The Spanish were outnumbered 200-to-1, but they seized the Inca capital of Cuzco and rid themselves of Emperor Atahualpa in just one year. This is the amazing true story of how it all went down.

This historical re-enactment has everything: Shakespeare-level drama and intrigue, almost unimaginably large piles of silver and gold, Inca warriors, greedy conquistadors, guerrilla warfare, lifelong friendships that implode in moments of betrayal. It’s powerful and suspenseful, a 500-year-old story that feels fresh and relevant to current politics.

Author Kim MacQuarrie relates the events of the 36-year war between the Spanish and the Inca in compelling detail. It unfolds almost in real-time with a near day-to-day account of the tense conversations, battles, and behind-the-back negotiating (back-stabbing) that went on for decades among Pizarro, his brothers, the other conquistadors, and the Incas. It’s all all-star cast of heroes and anti-heroes, all out to prove their manhood and get (or keep) the abundant treasures found in the Andes.

To build his narrative, MacQuarrie relies on primary sources that have survived the centuries: Spanish letters and diaries, along with indigenous chronicles. His lyrical, descriptive prose — in which we learn about the weather, smells, sights, sounds, and, sometimes, the imagined thoughts and feelings of combatants — are interspersed with quotes and illustrations from the historical accounts. It’s surprisingly emotional.

MacQuarrie studied in Peru for five years while doing graduate work in anthropology and lived among the Yora tribe in Peru’s Upper Amazon. His commitment to diligent research is matched by his infectious enthusiasm for this remarkable story.

Clouds choked their descent, the men losing sight of the front and rear ends of the column as the cavalry was suddenly converted into helmeted silhouettes, bathed in a light gray mist. Drops of water like perspiration collected on the Spaniards’ armor, coalescing into rivulets that then descended like tiny streams of quicksilver. They now followed their native guides single file down into the dark and alien underworld of the Amazon rain forest. The men sweated under their armor and cotton clothes while in the distance, sounds they had never before heard welled up—deep, lionlike roars that to the Spaniards sounded like the guardians of hell screaming, coupled with strange, haunting trills that wafted through the dripping forest and no doubt sent chills down many of their spines. — Kim MacQuarrie

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