Marrin (The Sea King, 1995, etc.) retraces the Spanish conquest of the American Southwest in this distinctive, authentically illustrated volume. His approach capitalizes on the drama inherent throughout human struggle, providing a dense, compelling narrative inhabited by such dazzling figures as the 16th-century nobleman, Francisco VÃŠsquez de Coronado, whose expedition resulted in battle with the Zuni and whose scouts were the first outsiders to stumble across the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest. Marrin's clear-eyed research presents a three-dimensional portrait of General Antonio LÂ¢pez de Santa Anna, easily the most despised figure of Mexico in the 19th century, who, after promising political reform, seized power as military dictator and subsequently led Mexico to defeat in the war against the US and Texas. Although this history is enlivened by such personalities, it is also brimming with details of day-to-day living, e.g., the supplies a trader packed for the eight-week journey to the first stop on the Santa Fe trail.