This novel is based on the first English translation of a diary that came to light in an
archive in the Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antropología e Historia del Perú in
Lima. The extracts are included with the kind permission of the translator. Cristóbal
de Varga was a distant cousin of both Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizarro who,
unlike Pizarro and many of the other conquistadors of his time, was highly literate.
This very facility with words has lent credence to those that claim his journal
comprised merely the fevered imaginings of a man frustrated by his own lack of
success in an age where others were making their fortunes. A recent spectral analysis of the cover of the diary, however, has shown that what was thought to be solidified droplets of gold may, in fact, be a previously unknown chemical element.