THE AMETHYST RING
Here concludes O'Dell's dazzling drama of the temptation, fall, and redemption of Julian Escobar, the 16th-century Spanish seminarian who came in The Captive to rule a New World island as the Mayan god Kukulcan. Having witnessed the fall of Moctezuma in The Feathered Serpent, Julian returns to prepare the defense of his own island against the inevitable coming of Cortes. But Julian's dwarf companion deserts him with their ship filled with Aztec gold; the island falls to Cortes without a struggle; and Julian, escaping, becomes a solitary wanderer, wearing the amethyst ring of a captured Spanish bishop Julian had allowed his Mayan priest to kill after the bishop refused to ordain Julian. He stays in a nearby village until the gold-hungry Spanish come and kill its friendly cacique. Traveling south, he sells woven hats at a market stall and is disheartened when an African child he has bought and set free dies of a Spanish fever. Further South, he sells beautiful feathered capes for a rich Mayan trader. ("I had nothing. I wanted nothing.") Always dodging Cortes, he ends up with Pisarro's army, sickened by their massacre of the Inca and failing hopelessly in love with the Inca king's daughter. By then Julian has come to sympathize wholly with the Indian victims against the Spanish conquerors and their priests, but he never gives up his Spanish religion. Dispirited, he returns to Spain to find the dwarf ensconced as the Marquis of Santa Cruz and the Seven Cities. "You always had a heavy conscience," observes the dwarf, as Julian gives up both his dream of priesthood and his share of the dwarf's gold to join a lay order, the Brothers of the Poor--a weary renunciation that could come only after the once-untried idealist had won and lost and soured on power and glory. This evolution, and the small choices Julian makes along the way, have remained the compelling focus of a trilogy crackling with intrigue, historical spectacle, and the conflict of cultures that confounds his loyalties.?