Arauco: A Novel

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Two cultures clash in this detailed saga about Spaniard Pedro de Valdivia’s initial 1540 expedition to Chile. Valdivia later became Chile’s first governor through a series of brutal events. This historical fiction explores many known figures from Chile’s history from both the indigenous Mapuche and the invading Spanish, creating a dichotomic retelling that adds rich depth and feeling to the narrative.

Juan de Cardeña, a young Spaniard enthralled with epic romances found on the pages of his beloved books, learns that these seemingly exotic and heroic adventures are really full of death, pestilence, peril, and immoral behavior. He has choices to make about himself and those individuals that he loves and has been committed to follow, particularly after he meets and befriends a Mapuche girl named Raytrayen. Influential shaman Namku, from whose perspective the Mapuche story is mostly told, raised Raytrayen. He sees the importance of having a bridging force between the two opposing cultures.

Many different stories and lives are explored within Arauco, yet the different storylines never get confusing. On top of the plethora of characters, the descriptive text itself is educational and informative with literary and historical references throughout. Because of the depth and breadth used by Caviglia, this novel should be enjoyed at a slow savoring pace. By really paying attention and submersing myself in the text, I felt almost as if I had traveled back in time to witness Spanish invasion. One thing I really enjoyed about this novel was that Caviglia did a nice job of presenting balanced information about each force. The language can be tricky, because, although primarily in English, the narrative includes Spanish and Mapudungun words. The author has thoughtfully included a Mapudungun glossary. By the end of the novel, I wasn’t flipping back and forth nearly as much. I was grateful that I have an elementary understanding of Spanish, though, because no Spanish glossary is included. The author also uses an incredible amount of ellipses and dashes, but I stopped noticing this after I engaged with the story, which happened after a few chapters.

Anyone who enjoys slowly paced and highly detailed historical fictions will surely want to seek out Arauco.


Reviewed By:

Author John Caviglia
Star Count 4/5
Format Trade
Page Count 698 pages
Publisher CreateSpace
Publish Date 09-Feb-2013
ISBN 9781479383016
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue June 2014
Category Historical Fiction
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