The final installment of the adventures of an 18th-century sorcerer in New Mexico.
McFarland (What the Owl Saw, 2014, etc.) continues his series of mystical historical novels featuring the heroic young brujo Don Carlos Buenaventura, who, in 1706, lives in the Spanish Empire’s town of Santa Fe (now in modern-day New Mexico). He hides his sorcerous identity from other members of his community by taking the alternate identity of Don Alfonso Cabeza de Vaca, an ordinary young man from an aristocratic Catholic family. For some of his career, Don Carlos has also been hiding from a fellow sorcerer, Don Malvolio, who hounded him through many lifetimes and even killed him in his last existence. As this concluding volume opens, Don Carlos continues to juggle the natural and supernatural sides of his life: he’s pursuing a new career as mogul in the West Coast’s booming real estate market and a romantic relationship with the beautiful widow Inéz de Recalde. More recently, though, others have been pursuing him: Inquisition officials have heard rumors of a powerful brujo in Santa Fe and have sent a commission to ferret him out. McFarland’s genial, involving narrative vividly realizes the world of Colonial Santa Fe, and its people feel very believably of their time. In the supernatural segments, there’s never much doubt that Don Carlos will prevail (“When I’m in good form, I make for a challenging opponent,” he says at one point), but the scenes remain gripping. McFarland is quite skilled at providing seamless background information so that each of the books in the series could, in a pinch, stand alone. However, readers are nonetheless advised to read the first two installments before beginning this third, as a great deal of nuance, especially regarding Don Carlos’ knowledge of and belief in himself, would otherwise be lost.
A very satisfying blend of the historical novels of James Michener and the spiritual accounts of Carlos Castaneda.