Columbus, de Soto, Pizarro, Ponce de Leon, Las Casas, these are the fabled heroes of Spanish conquest; surrounding them are lesser names with their own explorations and plunderings, and of every one and every act, Descola writes reflectively and methodically. He seeks to weave together the pattern of gold, gore and God, to compare and interpret, and to record and surmise. The military tactic devised by Cortes enabled a handful of highly mobile troops to rout hordes of ill-organized Indians. Valdivia succumbed to cannibals. Possibly Columbus was of Jewish origin. Little of consequence, nothing of interest is missed. Descola might well have amplified the facts of improved cartography and navigation, captured more of the Inquisatorial flavor, dwelled further on the effects in the old world of the unbelievable treasure streaming from the new. But within self-imposed limits, Descola is fully serviceable to the uninformed, a respectable wordsmith, and impressive in his imaginative reconstruction of the daily world of the Conquistadors. From the French.