The theme of Conquistador betraying Indian, betraying his fellows and inevitably betraying himself, has been given no more powerful expression than in Newbery winner Scott O'Dell's second novel for young people. In the prison cell in Vera Cruz where he is being held for withholding the King's share of treasure, the "King's Fifth," young Esteban, the mapmaker, sets down all that has happened in order to discover its meaning; how he joined Mendoza's expedition to the famed Seven Cities of Cibola in order to have the honor of drawing the first maps of unknown regions; his friendship with Zia, the Indian girl guide "of the silver bells and silvery laughter"; the discovery of gold and the change that it brought in him; Mendoza's betrayal of Indian trust to gain the gold; and ultimately, after many hardships, his own abandonment of the gold and all it represents. As Esteban sets down his story, the trial progresses, day by day, until past and present become one. He comes to understand the corrupting power of greed; he understands too that strong bodies and strong wills often conceal weak spirits. The author uses the first person, near-diary form to heighten the immediate moment -- the trial --and confer a documentary value on the retrospective narrative. And the ending eschews, in large measure, the contrived solution of many juveniles: Esteban is sentenced to three years' imprisonment by a court that could not have admitted error by exonerating him altogether. Unloose the adjectives for this one: a stunning novel of compelling interest and mounting impact.