This is an account of Padre Lorenzo de Escalona, Franciscan missionary to the frontiers of the Rio Grande del Norte in the 17th century, and his struggles to understand and bring together the ancient loyalties and passions of the Puebloans and the savage military tactics and alien culture of the conquering Spanish. Beginning with the brutal execution and flogging of Puebloan leaders, the story follows the fortunes of Padre Lorenzo as the signal fires are lit and the Spanish ride forth to search for insurrectionists. A stupid defiling of the ritualistic practices of an old Puebloan by a visiting Spanish priest; the murder of two Puebloans; a confrontation of their leader; Lorenzo's attempt to fathom the brutality of the professional Spanish soldiers; the slaughter of a child and a revenge, all test the durability of the priest's respect for the dignity of man and the comfort of his faith. Throughout Padre Lorenzo is shadowed by the flamboyant Estrella, the Spanish-Yaqui, whose mocking laughter foreshadows his own calm death in the mission he loves. This is an evocative setting, where rumuor hums with death. The characters are believable (although they converse in a colloquial and faintly Hollywood-cadenced tongue) and they have some healthy things to say about the rights of conquered peoples. All in all, a readable, durable historical novel.