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The Last Days of the Incas

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  1,751 ratings  ·  209 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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189th out of 1,586 books — 1,459 voters
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1st out of 6 books — 7 voters

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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
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
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
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
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
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
Bryan Higgs
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
Jul 22, 2011 Rajesh rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
I chose this book after considerable research on books about Peru outside of the typical travel guide format.

I greatly benefited from the story format of the book. History books can be utterly tedious and I've never had an affinity for dates. Instead the linear fashion and incredibly comprehensive overviews gave me a very clear understanding of this time period in Peru.

Towards the end of the book, the author explored the controversy surrounding Bingham's "discovery."
I really appreciated this p
Rajiv Chopra
May 04, 2014 Rajiv Chopra rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
Brandon Abraham
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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.
This was a well researched and well written account of the Spanish conquest of the Inca nation. I was naturally appalled, if not surprised, at the way the Spanish treated the natives. That said, it is equally important to remember the atrocities committed by the Incas in the name of religion. They were not the nicest people either. Last Days of the Incas was a page turner from the first encounter between Francisco Pizarro and the Inca to the final showdown between the warring Spanish over who wo ...more
Micky Bane
This book is one of the best I've ever read about the Incas and conquistadores. Not only accurate and very illustrative, but very good written and even touching.

I recommend this book real bad.
Earl Grey Tea
I was fascinated by South American history when I picked up Conquistador by Buddy Levy. Kim MacQuarrie continues the fascinating yet brutal story of the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire in this book. I don't know too much about this book and I was able to understand what was happening without too much difficulty. The hardest part is the plethora of Spanish and Inca names.

There was a lot of information in this book and the author presents in a way that is both entertaining and educational at t
Catherine Gillespie
The Last Days of the Incas is a well-written and well-paced history, and is engaging and interesting throughout in spite of its length. I appreciated reading it prior to teaching my children this part of history, but I would have read it in any case. The questions it raises about ethics, colonialism, how we view “the other” and the worth we give (or don’t give) to other people are worth considering and will keep you thinking long after you finish reading.

{Read my full review here}
I was going to give this book a 4, but about halfway through, it started getting very repetitive. I think I understand why the author did this - there are a lot of characters and events to keep straight and he was probably trying to provide "helpful reminders" for the reader. However, when it got to the point where I was being "reminded" of things that only happened a few pages ago, it was a little much and the repetition began to feel like wasted space. That being said, it is clear that this bo ...more
Jan 31, 2015 Betsy added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in history, Latin America
Recommended to Betsy by: Peru Tourism Board
I'm not going to rate this book, because my rating depends too much on who the reader is and why s/he is reading the book.

If you're already familiar with this time period and want to delve deeper, this might be a good book for you. If you're looking for an introduction to Peruvian history or the Inca kingdom, I'd suggest finding something that sounds less scholarly and brings period more alive. I started this before I went to Peru, and picked it up again when I got back. I think I got more from
Jul 05, 2014 Jim rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: history
This is a very well crafted book on an intriguing subject. A dramatic story of conquest and the struggle to resist conquest is framed by one of Indiana Jones like exploration. It is very engagingly written, zooming in to the personal, and panning out to big issues such as the arrival of Europeans in the Americas and the debate about how they should interact with other cultures, whether only the cruel and selfish survive, and whether the quest for glory makes monsters of us all, conquistadors, ex ...more
Nov 28, 2012 Nick rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone travelling to Peru.
Shelves: favorites
A nice complete overview of the Spanish conquest of Peru. I read this to prepare for a trip to Peru, and with very little knowledge of Incan civilization I felt like this was a great primer that made the major tourist sites come alive. Felt very comprehensive and self-contained, as the conquest of Peru was sort of a separate offshoot project of Spanish conquest, so it didn't feel too much like I was coming into the middle of much larger piece of history and missing a ton of background. The book ...more
Apr 03, 2009 Becky added it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
Stopped on chapter 7 - due to boredom

I'm surprised at how two-faced Pizarro appears in the book. One chapter he is upset because they (his vote included) wrongly killed the Incan emperor and the next he is lying to the new Incan emperor. This man was scum (as were his fellow conquerors).

I'm a little confused:
1. At the beginning of the book the author said that most of the Spaniards were illiterate, now they are reading "well-thumbed, contraband novels of ch
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Kim MacQuarrie is a writer, 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-contacted trib ...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.” 3 likes
“You know as well as we do that right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.” THUCYDIDES, THE HISTORY OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR, 5TH CENTURY B.C.” 0 likes
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