Working backwards to the early explorers, in publishing last the first of the trilogy of which we have had Across the Wide Missouri and The Year of Decision, Mr. DeVoto has again combined scholarship with a sense of men and drama for this third volume. Remote in time, yet vigorous in a sense of people and movements and issues, this shows a new type in the making. Spain- a dying civilization, flaunts a final thrilling gesture with the efforts of the explorers and conquistadors to extend the empire to the shores of Cathay. For centuries myth and fantasy, mistaken interpretations and false hopes sent men in search of new passages to the far east, put mistaken data on charts and maps. The western route- the northwest passage- these two aspirations keyed the efforts not only of the Spanish, but the French and British, while the native Indians were pawns in their game for empire. De Vaca, Cortes, De Soto, Coronado, Fray Marcos, Estaban, -- a galaxy of names, men who discovered more than they knew, and perished, heartbroken at failure. Then with the French to the north, Cartler, Champlain, Perrot, Radisson, Groseillier, Marquette, Jolliet, La Salle, Frontenac, Hennipin, La Harpe, De Bourgmond, Verendrye- stout hearted idealists, with more of permanent contribution to offer world exploration than the Spaniards, with a sounder sense of handling the Indians than the British- these ultimately failed because they lacked the zeal for colonizing where they opened up new territories, to the north, through the great valley. Came the English, overlapping, conflicting, seeking to grab the French fur trade, putting roots down, envisioning a new race, a new continent, a new empire. A permanent contribution to history here, all setting the stage for the climax of the book, the Lewis and Clarke expedition.