This book is an unrivalled source on the appearance, weapons, backgrounds, and experiences of the brutal Spanish veterans who brought several great American Empires to their knees in the 16th Century.
The author, John Pohl, has already written several titles for Osprey on the subject of Mexican-Conquistador warfare, and has extensive experience in the study of American civilizations from Canada to Central America. The illustrator, Adam Hook, is also known for his knowledge of the 'Indians' and their material culture and appearances, and is well established with his father and sister as one of Osprey's best artists.
The Conquistador era began in 1492. In that year, Columbus famously 'discovered' the New World while Ferdinand and Isabella were taking the surrender of Moorish-held Granada and cruelly expelling all the Jews, Moors, and other ethnic and religious minorities from Spain. The very aura of the time was one of warfare, intolerance, and greed, and would soon spread into the Americas. As early as 1493, the Spanish explorers had made leathal enemies amongst the natives for their cruel, drunken, and lustful behavior. In the end, however, the superior fighting styles, politics, and brutality of the Spaniards would win. By 1547, when Hernando Cortez died, the Spaniards had conquered the New World and many of its tribes and kingdoms from New Mexico to Peru, and had campaigned against some of the same tribes the Americans would fight in the 18th and 19th Centuries.
The Spanish conquest of Mexico in the 1520's is understandably the focus of a good chunk of the 64 page book. The success the Spaniards had against the formidable Mexicans ('Aztecs') can be attributed to many factors-though firearms are not one of them. The highly chivalrous and ritualistic military methods of the Indians against the professional brutality of the Europeans was definitely a factor, though superior training, fencing skills, Indian superstition and disunity, and maybe even luck all played their roles as well-oh, and let's not forget Cortez's army of at least 150,000 Indian allies!
The book follows the usual Warrior format-chronology, recruitment, organization, training, tactics, clothing/armor/weapons, diplomacy, campaigning, experience of battle, and a conclusion based on the last years of the Conquistadors. The book follows the experiences of a hypothetical Conquistador called Miguel, and at times reads almost like a novel. Overall, the text is an excellent source on the Conquistadors and is really a decent source for the elite of all the contemporary European armies.
The plates add lots of color to the book. Along with four spirited depictions of battle with Indian tribesmen, they also flesh out the appearance and gear of the Conquistadors along with their priests, women, and Indian allies.
In short this book is one of the best on this small but tenacious group of merciless killers-and the equally brutal Mexican Empire they toppled.