One of the most dramatic and one of the most confusing stories in all history is the story of the Spanish conquistadors in the Americas. This is that story, built around the career of De Soto, who -- of them all -- has left the finest record, least sullied by the cruelty, the jealousies, the overweening ambitions that blackened the records of his contemporaries. This is not wholly successful. The author has attempted too much, has crammed her pages with too many names, too much detail. But, in the main, the story and the personalities emerge, and the whole bright pageant, with its dark pages, is alive. The story spans nearly fifty years, ending with De Soto's tragic death in the lower Mississippi valley. Schools and libraries will find this useful.