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The Last Days of the Incas

4.09  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,392 Ratings  ·  257 Reviews
Kim MacQuarrie lived in Peru for five years and became fascinated by the Incas and the history of the Spanish conquest. Drawing on both native and Spanish chronicles, he vividly describes the dramatic story of the conquest, with all its savagery and suspense. This authoritative, exciting history is among the most powerful and important accounts of the culture of the South ...more
Hardcover, 522 pages
Published May 29th 2007 by Simon & Schuster
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Jan 12, 2011 Coralia rated it it was amazing
As a Peruvian I feel really sorry for what happened at that time. It looks that I am a kind of witness when reading this book...Thank you Mr. MacQuarrie. I can picture each scene. Also, the books makes me reflect of how the Inca empire was affected deeply by this gang, I believe it was because the empire was divided in many ways for power. Spaniards were lucky finding a place like this. Racism, killing, stealing, lying were their heritage left, among others. Three centuries later, it is interest ...more
Kressel Housman
This is a very well-researched, very well-written history book about a period and culture I knew very little about: the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire in South America. Though I would not go so far as to say it read like a novel, certain parts did, especially when the author was creating a “hook” to introduce the next series of events. I understand he’s an Emmy award-winning documentarian, so he knows how to tell a story.

If the author ever decides to adapt this book into film, the protagon
Nov 22, 2008 David rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating, epic (22 hours on audio) history of the invasion of the Spanish conquistadors into the Andes in the early 16th century. It's chilling to learn details of the "conquest" of the Incan empire. The Spaniards, led by the 5 Pizarro brothers, initially came in minuscule numbers, and were often outnumbered in their battles by factors of 10,000 to 1 or more. But they slaughtered the natives with impunity, rarely suffering casualties. They had horses, armor, and steel - innovations ...more
Jun 23, 2015 Ctgt rated it really liked it
Shelves: bio-history
I read a fair amount of history but the ancient peoples of Central and South America are some of my blindspots. This may not have been the best place to start since the book, obviously, deals with the end of the Incas but I did learn quite a few facts that have piqued my interest in what led up to their demise as an empire.

Seems the Incas were actually conquerors themselves and made up a very small minority of the actual population. They had defeated all the surrounding tribes and were considere
Sep 16, 2011 Eric rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: outside-reading
A great book for anybody planning a trip to Peru, especially those who will make the journey to Cuzco and Machu Picchu. This history book tells the story of both the Spanish conquest of the Incan Empire, as well as the history of the archaeological rediscovery of the ruins of that empire. An easy to read history, that reads more like a novel, it is full of adventure and information. A fascinating story, and one that is extremely well told.
Bryan Higgs
Mar 13, 2011 Bryan Higgs rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, anthropology
In September 2010, we visited Peru, the Sacred Valley, Cusco, and in particular Machu Picchu -- the so-called "Lost City of the Incas". It was a wonderful trip, and piqued my curiosity enough to want to learn something of the history of how the Conquistadors ("Conquerers" in Spanish) defeated the Incas, an empire of approximately 10 million, with only ~160 Spaniards. I looked for a book that would be interesting, informative, and not too dry, and found this book. I just finished reading it a few ...more
Jason Golomb
The Last Days of the Incas is a terrifically readable history of the Spanish conquest of the Incas and Peru. Whereas John Hemming's Conquest of the Incas is the definitive modern history, MacQuarrie brings to bear a more narrative and engaging approach.

Last Days is historically thorough, but MacQuarrie writes many of the incidents of the conquest in a more fictional style. Often scenes are are qualified with comments like "Undoubtedly, Pizarro felt such-and-such," or "No doubt Manco looked out o
May 03, 2011 Ron rated it really liked it
This topic represents another in a long list of things I know virtually nothing about. I am generally skeptical of historical books that describe long-ago events with the level of detail that is provided here. It simply strains credibility, in my view, to re-create conversations that took place in the Andean mountains centuries ago, especially when the records from the time are virtually non-existent. The author seems particularly in tune with this skepticism, as he qualifies his writing several ...more
Mar 11, 2010 Audrey rated it liked it
Historical fiction is not my usual cup of tea, but I read this to prepare myself for our upcoming trip to Machu Picchu. I really liked it, much to my surprise. The beginning and the end were a bit slow, as the author seemed interested in disecting the motives and methods of the explorers who discovered Machu Picchu and other Inca sites. (who cares?? I'm not a historian or an archeologist, so I didn't) But in the middle, where the Inca story and the Spanish conquest story were recreated, I was to ...more
Brian Pate
Aug 26, 2015 Brian Pate rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook, 2015
I listened to this while I travelled to Peru and visited Machu Picchu in August 2015. Fascinating (and at times heartbreaking) retelling of the Spanish conquest of Peru and twentieth-century rediscovery of key Inca ruins.
Jul 24, 2015 Yaniv rated it really liked it
I picked up "The Last Days of the Incas" after visiting Lima, Cuzco and the Sacred Valley for the first time. And man, I only wish I would've read this before going there – it will change completely your perspective on everything you see there.

The book is an exhilarating, highly-readable account of the Inca empire and its demise after a long, protracted war lasting more than four decades. MacQuarrie does a magnificent job at tracing the "encounter" of Pizarro and his first legion of Spaniards w
Apr 29, 2013 David rated it really liked it
Rather than rehash the general timeline of the book, I thought I would include the more interesting things that caught my attention in the book.

1. "Although the popular myth is that conquistadors were professional soldiers sent out and financed by the Spanish king in order to extend the emerging Spanish Empire, nothing could have been further from the truth. In reality, the Spaniards who bought passages on ships headed for the New World formed a representative sample of their compatriots back ho
Blake Charlton
May 26, 2010 Blake Charlton rated it really liked it
very well researched, told with enthusiasm and clarity. surprising and important portray of how brutal the spanish were and how similar the two empires were. a few facts that may surprise: the inca empire was only 90 years old when the Spanish arrived, the original conquest was conducted by a small 'private corporation' of conquistadors given license by the Spanish monarchy to practice piracy and terrorism upon indigenous populations, and many others. my only complaint was the repetitive style, ...more
Linda Harkins
Jun 08, 2014 Linda Harkins rated it it was amazing
MacQuarrie lived and engaged in an enormous amount of research in Peru over a period of five years. Consequently, this informative tome is his most recent of four books about Peru's history and culture. Indeed, this book is both powerful and transformative and a "must read" for somebody like me who knows little about South America.

The author graphically describes the brutal and heart-wrenching practices of colonialism in Peru. Its indigenous peoples suffered unnecessarily at the hands of the con
Ernest Spoon
Feb 26, 2015 Ernest Spoon rated it it was amazing
If there is any period of history that may have inspired George RR Martin's bloody Medieval fantasy series, "A Song Of Fire and Ice," it is the Spanish conquest of Peru, 1531-1572. Violent conflicts, deceit, rape, incest, power politics,personal betrayal, a clash of civilizations and empires, all here.

In every epic there are heroes and villains, and had Kim MacQuarrie written this book a hundred or so years earlier undoubtedly the conquistador Francisco Pizarro and his four brothers, Hernando,
Jun 06, 2015 Richard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: south-america
I read this book in 2010, because I wanted to learn about Francisco Pizarro, the conqueror of Peru. I read it again a mere five years later (which is a very uncommon thing for me to do) because I wanted to refresh my memory regarding what I had learned about the people he conquered. This time around I definitely paid more attention to the geography of Peru, among other things. Both times, however, it was a great read. It's rare that a book that covers a period that's centuries in the past comes ...more
Apr 03, 2015 Melanie rated it liked it
3.5 stars. As the title indicates, this book tells the story of Pizarro's arrival in Peru and the Incas' initial acceptance of and then war against the conquistadors. With good reason the book is sympathetic to the Inca people; normally I really love and admire Spanish colonial architecture, but now that I know about how horribly the Spanish treated the native people, I'm going to have a much harder time appreciating the colonial sites when I go to Peru.

This was an engaging read that has given m
Kirsti (Melbourne on my mind)
This is a thoroughly researched and easy to read assessment of the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. MacQuarrie doesn't pull any punches, detailing the atrocities that the Spanish inflicted on the Incan population, while also emphasising that the Inca were themselves colonists. The Inca Empire as an EMPIRE existed for less than 100 years. Prior to their dramatic push for land, the Inca were predominantly a pastoral society. But one charismatic leader changed all that.

It's an interesting look
Rajiv Chopra
May 04, 2014 Rajiv Chopra rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in the Incas
Recommended to Rajiv by: Goodreads
Shelves: history
This is an excellent book, and does a superb job in detailing the last years of the Inca Empire. Kim has done a marvellous job in bringing the last years of the Inca Empire. I had read about this vaguely, but this brought a whole new world to life.
He has been balanced in his approach, and while he undoubtedly indicts the Spanish for their appalling behaviour, he does, subtly, show that they were brave (but, cruel) men, who had no respect for the Inca culture. This is, however, not restricted to
Oct 19, 2011 David rated it really liked it
A great and very readable account of the Pizarros' conquest of the Incan Empire. Whatever you might think of the Pizarro brothers, those men had balls the size of Texas. I got the strong sense that the (spanish-centric) primary sources MacQuarrie relies on were downplaying the number and significance of native auxiliaries in the many uneven battles won by the Spaniards, but there is no question that--for sheer audacity alone--the campaign of conquest rivals the tale of Xenophon's Anabasis.

I was
Apr 22, 2009 Mitzi rated it liked it
The book jacket introduces Kim MacQuarrie as a filmmaker who lived among Peruvian Indians for 5 years. Both experiences color his writing, but mostly for the benefit of the reader. The history he relates of the interaction between the first Spanish conquistadors and the Incas reads like a Hollywood film. I can almost picture the marquee: Tom Cruise in the Last of the Incas....But history is almost always at least as exciting as fiction and this is certainly entertaining reading. The Spanish conq ...more
Barbara Carlson
May 22, 2011 Barbara Carlson rated it really liked it
I read this book before, during and after a trip to Machu Picchu. If you read it, you will want to go to Peru, which I would also recommend. The book lays out the 30+ years battle between the Spaniards coming to South America in the 1500's seeking gold and new territory and the Incas who were currently dominant in the area. The author relies on both native and Spanish chronicles and, while it is based on these accounts, he also tells it as a modern-day adventure, making it very vivid and interes ...more
Robin Rector
Aug 31, 2015 Robin Rector rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
The author clearly did his research. His attention to detail allowed me to picture the scenes in my mind. I listened to the audio version of this book. As I'm mulling the book over, I feel sad. It seems that the end result is much heartache. Everyone basically ended up with nothing. Francisco Pizarro and his brothers may have been successful at capturing cities and gathering gold and fame, but in the end, they lost it all. Obviously the Incas lost basically everything as well. Toward the end of ...more
Melanie Gillman
Sep 08, 2015 Melanie Gillman rated it really liked it
This was a good read! So many histories of the Incas simply end with the execution of Atahualpa, but this book goes into detail about the decades of continued Incan resistance against the Spanish that followed. The one strange omission I noted was the discussion of how communicable disease effected Incan resistance, before and after the arrival of Pizarro.
Dave Gaston
The incredible Spanish conquest of the Inca empire is fascinating. How could 150 men take on 100,000 Inca warriors? MacQuarrie lays out the answer in a very clear and concise manner. Still, I felt like I was watching an one dimensional history documentary. Half way through I realized, “I’m not emotionally vested with either side!” For the most part, rich detail is lacking in her story-telling. Contrary to that last statement, MacQuarrie would occasionally blurt out an imagined micro detail, “his ...more
Tyson Titensor
Books are the ultimate travel companion. The right book can color or inform a trip. And the experience of existing in an unfamiliar space opens the mind to the ideas in a book. A case of the sum being greater than the parts.

My reading experience was certainly enhanced by the fact that I'm living ten blocks from the square where much of the action took place, but I would heartily recommend this book to anyone regardless of their physical location. The story is incredible (if this book were fictio
Mar 22, 2013 Beth rated it really liked it
I really liked this book because I learned so much... and it was well written. Imagine a new empire, composed of more than 10 million people, organized to collect taxes, account for all of them, store them, and distribute food so that everyone ate. That was in the 1500's--shortly before 150 Spaniards, greedy for gold and property, landed and beat over 200,000 Inca warriors! The greed drove everything. The guns and steel beat the last emperor--in a very short period of time (maybe 30-50 years, I ...more
Jul 22, 2011 Rajesh rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
A powerful emperor has a band of renegade foreigners in his land behaving badly. But they seem to be riding some strange but magnificent animals. He decides let them come to where he is, then kill most of them, castrate the rest and use them as harem guards and breed the magnificent animals in large numbers.

It turns out that the the strange men are Spanish conquistadors with steel weapons and the emperor Atahulpa's troops are no match for them. Thus 168 conquistadors go on to capture the emperor
Oct 12, 2015 Judi rated it it was amazing
Excellent historical book, carefully researched, very readable style. This is no dry and dusty history book, but a fascinating account of the clash between two civilizations, the Spanish and the Incas. I read this because I traveled to Peru earlier this year, and after visiting Cuzco, Ollantaytambo and Macchu Pichu, I was interested in reading more about the Inca civilization. I knew very little about the Incas and had thought it was an older civilization like the Mayan civilization. I was surpr ...more
Jul 21, 2015 Chris rated it did not like it
The epilogue in The Last Days of the Incas is well written, interesting and, honestly, everything I wanted the rest of the book to be. Unfortunately the bulk of The Last Days of the Incas is very poorly written. Non-fiction writing can be difficult, particularly when taking on a subject, like the Incas, with little material available. However every step of the way, MacQuarrie goes off track. Chapters start with quotes, most of them by Machiavelli, but also from various both pre- and post- conque ...more
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Kim MacQuarrie is an award-winning author, a documentary filmmaker, and an anthropologist. He’s won multiple national Emmy awards for documentary films made in such disparate regions as Siberia, Papua New Guinea, and Peru. MacQuarrie is the author of four books on Peru and lived in that country for five years, exploring many of its hidden regions. During that time, MacQuarrie lived with a recently ...more
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“In a sense, New World conquest was about men seeking a way around one of life's basic rules - that human beings have to work for a living, just like the rest of the animal world. In Peru, as elsewhere in the Americas, Spaniards were not looking for fertile land that they could farm, they were looking for the cessation of their own need to perform manual labor. To do so, they needed to find large enough groups of people they could force to carry out all the laborious tasks necessary to provide them with the essentials of life: food, shelter, clothing, and, ideally, liquid wealth. Conquest, then, had little to do with adventure, but rather had everything to do with groups of men willing to do just about anything in order to avoid working for a living. Stripped down to its barest bones, the conquest of Peru was all about finding a comfortable retirement.” 5 likes
“Tell me, Rui Díaz, if I were to give the King a very great treasure, would he withdraw all the Christians from this land?” Rui Díaz replied, “How much would you give?” Rui Díaz said that Manco then had a [large quantity] . . . of corn [kernels] brought out and had it piled on the ground. And from that pile he took one grain, and said: “The Christians have [only] found as much gold and silver as this kernel; by comparison what you have not found is as large as this pile from which I took this single kernel.” . . . Rui Díaz [then] said to Manco Inca, “Even if all these mountains were made of gold and silver and you were to give them to the King, he would [still] not withdraw the Spaniards from this land.” 1 likes
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