Scott O'Dell Ruth H. Viguers - Essay

Ruth H. Viguers

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[As The King's Fifth opens, Estéban de Sandoval is awaiting] trial for defrauding the King of Spain of his rightful share of the treasure found in the Land of Cíbola…. [Estéban] hopes that by writing down in careful sequence the story of the search for gold, by reliving the fighting, hardships, suffering, treachery, fears, and disappointments, he will find the answer to all that puzzles him: even he succumbed to the fever for gold. Captain Mendoza is not clearly characterized, nor should he be: the record is by "a maker of maps and not a scrivener." Estéban sees him as the leader of the conducta and does not censure him for thinking of nothing but gold. To the reader he is the personification of greed, and the other members of the band, with the exception of Father Francisco and Zia, are shadows of evil…. The recording of the trial, which periodically interrupts the adventures, does not annoy but rather gives opportunities to look back and consider the meaning of events. Mr. O'Dell must have been deeply immersed in the history and literature of the conquistadores, for Indians, villages, landscapes, lake of gold, all are vivid. As would be expected from the author of Island of the Blue Dolphins, the writing is subtly beautiful, often moving, and says more than may be caught in one reading. (pp. 721-22)

Ruth H. Viguers, in a review of "The Kings Fifth," in The Horn Book Magazine, Vol. XLII, No. 6, December, 1966, pp. 721-22.