For those who've cut their teeth on Michener books, massive, informative, heavily researched novel that traces the of history of Brazil from before the advent of the Portuguese to the birth of Brasilia in 1960. After a solid beginning in which we see the native, cannibalistic Tupiniquin tribe on the eve of the arrival of Europeans, the story focuses on two great clans of Portugese settlers: the Cavalcantis, who build a slave-worked sugar-cane empire in the North; and the da Silvas of the South, who are restless, often brutal, explorers, pathfinders, slave-raiders and fortune hunters in the ""sertao""--the great wilderness just beyond the littoral. By following the founders and descendants of these families, the author attempts to dramatize--though often simply chronicles--the main events and struggles of post-1500 Brazilian history: the missionary drives of the early Jesuits in the new Eden, their conflicts with the settlers and their eventual expulsion: the near-annihilation of the native tribes by the Portuguese; the growth of huge sugar-cane and coffee plantations, and the fortunes discovered in gems; the ravages of the slave trade and the gradual intermingling of many races; the wars of the Portuguese settlers against the Dutch and, a century later, against Spanish Paraguay; the struggle for Brazilian independence from the motherland, and the difficult, often bloody establishing of a republic. Throughout, Brazilians are inspired to mad, heroic feats by the undying version of El Dorado. As is often the case with Michener, the novel smacks too much of the schoolroom--instructive, but with writing too tame and dry for the subject. Except for one grand stretch in the 17th century, when Armado da Silva joins with a Dutch painter in a marvelous journey into the sertao to find El Dorado, there's little immediacy or true adventure in the storytelling, and the cast of thousands starts early on to run together in one's mind. Potentially wonderful scenes--such as the 1897 military campaign against the wilderness stronghold of religious visionary Antonio the Confessor--lie fiat, and the exotic, passionate, sensuous Brazil that one might hope to see is glimsped here only in rare flashes.