In Gold's Name by Marcus Dalrymple

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In Gold's Name by Marcus Dalrymple

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Great historical fiction: a well-researched story told with verve and panache. You'll learn a lot but without feeling that you've been educated.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 428 Date: April 2018
Publisher: CreateSpace
ISBN: 978-1542465557

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It was about 1509 when a series of mystical events foreshadowed the end of the Aztec Empire and the inhabitants were to some extent conditioned to accept the pale faces who arrived many years later with their deer-without-antlers. Some thought the Spaniards were gods. Antonio Vega was no god, but he was essentially a decent man, particularly by the standards of the time. He was the finest marksman with his harquebus on the force, but at the age of twenty three he believed that the expedition in October 1520 was to establish trade links and to convert the local inhabitants to Christianity from the local religions which required human sacrifices. He'd joined the army from a seminary and whilst you wouldn't call him naive, he'd failed to appreciate that 'establishing trade links' meant finding and removing the Aztec gold and that any conversion would not be by winning hearts and minds but by threats and torture.

Almost five hundred years later Roberto Vega heard about a manuscript unearthed whilst renovations were being made to a church in Medellin which had been sent to a museum in Madrid for further investigations. Vega would soon read about what happened to his ancestor five centuries earlier. In the process he would be tempted into exploring some of the more recent history of his family, particularly in the Spanish civil war.

In Mexico Antonio Vega had been ordered to lead a scouting party to establish the whereabouts of the Aztec gold: it went against his conscience, but this was the army and orders were orders. It was a small group consisting of three men Vega respected and Francisco Uribe who had been sentenced to serve in the army for ten years. Uribe was brutal, greedy and completely without conscience. They would not be many days into their journey before Vega discovered just how brutal he could be.

Here at Bookbag we've come to respect Marcus Dalrymple as an author. We've never read any of his books without discovering that we've learned rather a lot in the process, but without feeling that we've been educated. His research is exemplary but information is used sensitively in that you're never going to feel that every bit of knowledge has been shoehorned in, regardless and he's also capable of telling brutal stories without leaving the reader feeling sick to the stomach. You'll be left in no doubt that life was cheap, the stakes high - and that not everyone had the same goals.

The story is, of course, based on fact, and you'll encounter several historical figures. Most of the events detailed in In Gold's Name are fictitious, but they blend seamlessly with history and I certainly couldn't see the joins. There's a real feel for Mexico in the sixteenth century and particularly for the indigenous tribes.

You're probably thinking that this is all very well, but is it a good read? Well, it is. I consumed the last half of the book in one sitting, desperate to know what happened to Antonio Vega and Francisco Uribe and intrigued by the way events resonated down the centuries to the Spanish civil war. It was thought provoking too: I've been pondering how people who fought in a war and fought for their own side in good faith come to terms with what has happened, how descendants of the killer and the killed can put the past behind them and move on positively.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy of the book to the Bookbag.

This is Marcus Dalrymple's first historical novel but if you'd like to read more from him we can recommend Killing Time: True Fiction, Flesh and Blood: True Fiction and The Border: True Fiction.

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