Peters continues his series of massive epics based on the pre- Colombian civilizations of Central and South America (The Luck of Huemac, 1981; Tikal, 1983), this time by focusing on the final 20 years of the Inca Empire before its conquest by the Spanish. Cusi Huaman is the youngest son of an Inca bureaucrat, left in the keeping of an illustrious warrior relative when his family relocates to a distant government post; Micay is the daughter of a rebellious tribal chief, seized by the Incas to begin a life of service to them as a ``chosen woman.'' Taken into Cusi's family as his sister's companion, she learns the ways of a healer, while Cusi begins to make a name for himself as a leader and resourceful warrior, and eventually they meet and marry. His successes in the field and his visions gain him a reputation as a sorcerer, as well as the favor of the Inca ruler Huanya Capac--but though he advances rapidly in position, Cusi eventually loses his status by defying the royal will in the culmination of a long, bloody war against a rebel nation. Meanwhile, he and Micay have twins, but family life is intermittent with battles against other tribes and a ravaging epidemic intervening. When the Empire crumbles in a bitter struggle for power pitting Inca against Inca, Cusi fights on, finally becoming a Lord of the realm just as it ceases to exist. Peters's customary attention to detail provides a stunning background for the saga, but even so it lacks the momentum and fire of sustained drama. Impressively steeped in Inca history and tradition, but suffering severely from a mismatch in scale between a vast pageantry and the uninspiring, conventional characters who enact it. Glittering if not gripping.