Plot: The book begins by introducing us to our main characters, Roger, his cousins and aunt and uncle. Rogers father, Reuben, is captain of the uncle’s ship, the Swan. Reuben proposes to the uncle that he and other businessman take a voyage to the unknown regions, currently under Spanish control, yet still undiscovered. After much careful thought, the uncle agrees and a few weeks later Roger and Reuben set sail. They have been sailing for some months, stopping in at islands to trade for supplies, when they have a small run in with six Spanish ships. They escape with no damage to their vessel and leave the Spanish ships far behind. A few days later they run in to a storm, which lasts for several days, much to our dismay, the ship is wrecked with Roger as the only survivor.
He walks to a village and stays there for several months, the villagers think him a god, since he has white skin and not dark like theirs. While there, he befriends a slave girl, who teaches him her native tongue. A time comes when traders arrive to barter with the natives; eventually Roger agrees to go with the traders to their own land. After many days of travel they arrive at the island next to the capital of Mexico. Roger is warmly welcomed by the reigning king, his wife and his lovely daughter. Our hero has many days with his new friends, and many discussions, before the King of Mexico discovers that he is there. The king of Mexico, Montezuma, requests a meeting with Roger, which he agrees to. After the meeting, Roger returns to the other palace. We find that the ambassadors from our good king are having a hard time convincing the king of Mexico that Roger is not a threat. The greater majority of the priests want to sacrifice Roger, and Montezuma listens a lot to these priests.
Eventually Spaniards land on the coast and cause great excitement. Montezuma wants them to leave, but they don’t wish to; Montezuma is scared by the Spaniards because they are thought to be gods. For several chapters, the author focuses on the Spanish and their progress through Mexico, making their way to the capital. Roger is told that Montezuma is going to arrest him and have him sacrificed. The other king helps him escape and Roger is ultimately able to join the Spanish. Through many battles the Spanish make it to the capital. Montezuma keeps the peace for some time, but in the end the priests voices win out. An attack is made on the house where the Spaniards are staying; there is a great battle with much slaughter. At this point both sides are hostile to each other. The Spaniards see the danger, and General Cortez, leads them from the city. They are attacked on every side by the Aztecs, the latter being furious at the humiliation they endured and the ruin brought to their temples.
Positive: Our hero is a Christian; he abhors the human sacrifices and openly tells his pagan friends that their gods are false. Our hero risks much to save his friends, he stays loyal and true to the Spaniards, and even when they appear to be losing. Many of the Mexican people help our hero escape, even when it risks their lives and livelihood.
Negative: There are human sacrifices near the end of the book, being Aztecs; they believe it is what their god requires of them. We find that many thousands of captives are slain every year to the pagan gods of the Aztecs. There are battles where many die and several are wounded. A woman is wounded and becomes sick, though she does get better. There is a massacre, which occurs in cold blood.
Overall: I was directed to this book by my sister. She and I both enjoy G.A. Henty books. This one was rather long, but completely worth the time invested. I enjoy historical fiction immensely and I highly recommend this book.