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Led by the zealous Fray Junipero Serra to the fringes of the Spanish Empire in the mid-1700s, Franciscan missionaries Francisco Palou and Juan Crespi are as fervid as their master about the opportunity posed by Alta California: to gloriously swell the kingdom of God through conversion--consensual or forced--of the native people. As Crespi and our sensitive but bitterly envious narrator, Palou, vie for Serra’s fickle favor, a chain of their newly established missions creeps north up the fog-enshrouded coast from Mexico. A master stylist and a meticulous researcher, Nick Taylor vividly captures the atmosphere of early California as he dramatizes the politics of the era: the horrifying and tragic gaps in understanding between priests and natives; the vicious power plays between crown and church; and the fervor, ambition, and desperation that fueled European settlement of the region. This novel’s publication coincides with the celebration of the 300th anniversary of Junipero Serra’s birth.

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