Most of Henty’s books I am familiar with are historical novels and excellent ones. This is a straight adventure story not unlike Edgar Rice Burroughs or H. Rider Haggard”s non-fantasy Alan Quatermain novels. It is set in the late 19th century when the two adventurers set sail for Peru aboard a three masted barque. It must sail around the Horn to get there. The description of the ship and the lives of seamen is very detailed and accurate. So too, is that of Peru and its people at that time.
Henty, (1832-19020) usually researched his novels by ordering several books on the subject he was writing on from libraries. Then consulting them before beginning writing. Some of his books were written about events (such as the Crimean War) that he was actually involved in as a reporter. These books are thus written with greater detail as Henty drew upon his first-hand experiences of people, places, and events.
For those who love travel and history including archeology, this is a real plus. His vivid descriptions certainly place you right there with the characters involved, They are very likeable and Henty has a good moral compass. They repelled a savage Indian attack with a method that would cause MacGiver to take notes. The ancient castle they discovered was a great example of why I love archeology and the ruins of antiquity.
It is interesting that the first god of the Incas was Pachacamac, “the creator of the world”, the chief deity of the Incas. The Social Darwinist interpretation of religious “evolution” has been pretty much overthrown by the fact that polytheism has been shown to have developed after monotheism, not before.
An interesting sidelight is that the British Pound at the time of this story was equal to five American dollars. Workman usually received a dollar a day for their work. If you were good at what you did, you might make $1.50. You should consult the facsimile of the 1900 Sears Catalog to see what a dollar would buy back then.
The story, set in Peru, concerns a British naval lieutenant, Harry Prendergast, who is in love with a very beautiful woman, Hilda Fortescue. Her father is very wealthy and he wants his daughter to marry a rich man. A friend of Harry tells him of a highly competent native Indian guide in Peru who might be able to lead him to a lost treasure of the Incas. This man, Dias, owes his friend a debt of gratitude for having saved his life. He gives Harry a letter explaining to Dias that if he wants to repay his debt, he could do it by helping the lieutenant. Harry has gotten an agreement that he has two years to improve his fortune. At the end of that time, if he fails, he must give up all claim to her. Spurred on by desperation he departs for Peru, accompanied by his rather immature younger brother. Meeting with Dias and his wife, he is immediately impressed that they would be ideal companions for this expedition. They get together the necessary gear and take off into the wilds of Peru, a place that Anglo-Saxons rarely visit.
The story contains confrontations with brigands and attacks by “savages” as well as the unique creatures of this place. For example, the small, harmless looking wild pigs which when one of their number is killed, attack like an army of ants. They are relentless and undeterred even by dozens of their numbers killed. If you are treed by them, they will stay around for weeks waiting for you to starve.
All in all this is an excellent adventure story which made me feel like I had actually visited the Peru of that era!