River of Darkness by Buddy Levy
Francisco Orellana's Legendary Voyage of Death and Discovery Down the Amazon

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Synopsis

From the acclaimed author of Conquistador comes this thrilling account of one of history’s greatest adventures of discovery. With cinematic immediacy and meticulous attention to historical detail, here is the true story of a legendary sixteenth-century explorer and his death-defying navigation of the Amazon—river of darkness, pathway to gold.

In 1541, the brutal conquistador Gonzalo Pizarro and his well-born lieutenant Francisco Orellana set off from Quito in search of La Canela, South America’s rumored Land of Cinnamon, and the fabled El Dorado, “the golden man.” Driving an enormous retinue of mercenaries, enslaved natives, horses, hunting dogs, and other animals across the Andes, they watched their proud expedition begin to disintegrate even before they descended into the nightmarish jungle, following the course of a powerful river. Soon hopelessly lost in the swampy labyrinth, their numbers diminishing daily through disease, starvation, and Indian attacks, Pizarro and Orellana made a fateful decision to separate. While Pizarro eventually returned home barefoot and in rags, Orellana and fifty-seven men, in a few fragile craft, continued downriver into the unknown reaches of the mighty Amazon, serenaded by native war drums and the eerie cries of exotic predators. Theirs would be the greater glory.
 
Interweaving eyewitness accounts of the quest with newly uncovered details, Buddy Levy reconstructs the seminal journey that has electrified adventurers ever since, as Orellana became the first European to navigate and explore the entire length of the world’s largest river. Levy gives a long-overdue account of the native populations—some peaceful and welcoming, offering sustenance and life-saving guidance, others ferociously hostile, subjecting the invaders to gauntlets of unremitting attack and intimations of terrifying rituals. And here is the Amazon itself, a powerful presence whose every twist and turn held the promise of new wonders both natural and man-made, as well as the ever-present risk of death—a river that would hold Orellana in its irresistible embrace to the end of his life.

Overflowing with violence and beauty, nobility and tragedy, River of Darkness is both riveting history and a breathtaking adventure that will sweep readers along on an epic voyage unlike any other.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Buddy Levy

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Buddy Levy is the author of Conquistador: Hernán Cortés, King Montezuma, and the Last Stand of the Aztecs and American Legend: The Real-Life Adventures of David Crockett. As a journalist, he has covered adventure sports and lifestyle around the world. He is a clinical associate professor at Washington State University and lives in Moscow, Idaho, with his wife and two children. Visit his website at http://buddylevy.com.
 
Published February 22, 2011 by Bantam. 352 pages
Genres: History. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for River of Darkness

Kirkus Reviews

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Levy follows his account of Hernán Cortés, Conquistador (2008), with this accessible new book, which follows Francisco Orellana’s accidental but monumental trip down the Amazon only a few years after Cortés.

Dec 15 2010 | Read Full Review of River of Darkness: Francisco ...

The Wall Street Journal

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An impromptu expedition down the Amazon born of desperation rather than greed or a yearning for glory.

Feb 22 2011 | Read Full Review of River of Darkness: Francisco ...

AV Club

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Orellana and Pizarro were both dead and disgraced within a few years, and later attempts at conquest, including the infamous Aguirre expedition, failed dismally.

Mar 17 2011 | Read Full Review of River of Darkness: Francisco ...

Bookmarks Magazine

Theirs would be the greater glory.

Interweaving eyewitness accounts of the quest with newly uncovered details, Buddy Levy reconstructs the seminal journey that has electrified adventurers ever since, as Orellana became the first European to navigate and explore the entire length of the ...

Feb 28 2011 | Read Full Review of River of Darkness: Francisco ...

Red Room

Buddy Levy is the author of, most recently, River of Darkness: Francisco Orellana’s Legendary Voyage of Death and Discovery Down the Amazon (Bantam Dell, 2011).

Mar 17 2011 | Read Full Review of River of Darkness: Francisco ...

Red Room

Levy does a fine job of organizing an enormous amount of historical material and balancing the accounts of Orellana and Pizarro after they separated.

Jan 22 2011 | Read Full Review of River of Darkness: Francisco ...

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