• River of Darkness

  • Francisco Orellana's Legendary Voyage of Death and Discovery Down the Amazon
  • By: Buddy Levy
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Davis
  • Length: 9 hrs and 49 mins
  • Categories: History, Americas
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (196 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

From the acclaimed author of Conquistador comes this thrilling account of one of history's greatest adventures of discovery. With cinematic immediacy and meticulous attention to historical detail, here is the true story of a legendary 16th-century explorer and his death-defying navigation of the Amazon - river of darkness, pathway to gold.

In 1541, the brutal conquistador Gonzalo Pizarro and his well-born lieutenant Francisco Orellana set off from Quito in search of La Canela, South America's rumored Land of Cinnamon, and the fabled El Dorado, "the golden man". Driving an enormous retinue of mercenaries, enslaved natives, horses, hunting dogs, and other animals across the Andes, they watched their proud expedition begin to disintegrate even before they descended into the nightmarish jungle, following the course of a powerful river.

Soon hopelessly lost in the swampy labyrinth, their numbers diminishing daily through disease, starvation, and Indian attacks, Pizarro and Orellana made a fateful decision to separate. While Pizarro eventually returned home barefoot and in rags, Orellana and 57 men, in a few fragile craft, continued downriver into the unknown reaches of the mighty Amazon, serenaded by native war drums and the eerie cries of exotic predators. Theirs would be the greater glory.

©2011 Buddy Levy (P)2017 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"A richly textured account of the rogue, rebel and visionary whose discovery still resonates today." ( Kirkus)

What listeners say about River of Darkness

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Amazing!

Where does River of Darkness rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Definitely in the top ten - up there with 1491 (which I have listened to several times)....

Any additional comments?

Conquistadors were people too. It was so interesting to hear the story of conquest from the perspectives of the people who became conquistadors. It reminded me of today's youth who join the military to get ahead financially. Also, the socio-economic context in Spain was interesting - it was not static as I used to think, but evolved. But above all it was an adventure story. Mainly about Orellana - but also focused quite a bit on the Pizzaro brothers. I had never heard the story of Pizzaro's turning on the authority of the king...
Really fantastic! I just wish it was longer - only 9 hours - could have easily been 29. The narrator was also one of the best I have ever listened too. I am starting Buddy Levy's other book Conquistador book tonight.

7 people found this helpful

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Loved it! Conquistadors survive the Amazon.

Great narration. Amazing journey! Poison darts! Incredible will and tough men struggled to survive the starvation and attacks.

3 people found this helpful

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Excellent but repetitive in parts

I found this to be an excellent account of Spain's conquest of Peru (a shortened version laying the groundwork for the Amazon story). The decimation of the Incas is a horrifying story that is painful to recall. The main focus is Gonzalo Pizzaro and Francisco Orellana's exploration of the Ecuadorian jungle and the latter's exploration of the Amazon. My only negative about this is that the author recounts, it seems, every confrontation Orellana has the indigenous people. These get repetitive.

2 people found this helpful

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An incredible tale well told

A fascinating account of the first expedition to the Amazon by the conquistadors. Despite the evil that was done in the name of greed and fame, you can't help but recognize the endurance, will, and drive that propelled these explorers into some of the most amazing and dangerous places on Earth

1 person found this helpful

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Amazing story!!

An incredible story of a most amazing journey and discovery. Such mystery and amazement of the people and places.

1 person found this helpful

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the Land of the Lost Treasure

the river of Darkness the greatest one in the world the Amazon just like its smaller cousin in Africa the Congo has generated dreams of lost fortunes and Cities The wealth of the new world didn't all come from a few mines that were easily found by The Conquistadors when they conquered the Inca and the Aztecs for these people must have gotten much of their gold from other places cities like El Dorado pachakuti lost city of Z King Solomon's Mines the river of darkness is a must-have book for anybody who's searching for any of these or dreaming about discovering one of them it's entirely possible that two or more of them are really the same place and considering that much of the gold that comes from Brazil has been found in the Deep Jungle it makes you wonder if we have maybe already found them by accident. the true wealth of the Amazon and the surrounding jungle in the mountains around it lies in its abundant ability to provide other valuable things. if the Conquistadors hadn't been so greedy for gold and had kept her eyes open and realized it the land they were traveling through was gold in itself all they had to do was stay there and develop it. I read this book years ago when it first was published in hardcover and I waited for years for to come out in Audible since I bought it I've already listened to it 4 times yes I'm one of the dreamers.

2 people found this helpful

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Amazing early adventure down the Amazon

This book was gripping in its descriptions of Orellana's journey down the Amazon. Orellana, who generally attempted to curb his rapaciousness, especially when compared to his better known conquistador counterparts, nonetheless robbed and stole foodstuffs, stole tribespeople from their villages,, and killed those who attempted to protect their villages. The overarching theme was, "Where are your riches, I want them, I'll do anything to make them mine." Despite this bitter pill, one cannot help but marvel at the incredible ingenuity of this group of Spaniards who, discovering they are utterly lost in the wilderness, build their own boats from scratch, design and build their own forge in which they make their own nails from scrap iron, and endure weeks and weeks of near starvation to ultimately travel almost the full length of the uncharted Amazon to the ocean, and from there to a Spanish settlement near current day Venezuela. The final section of the book, in which the author describes the political ramifications of the journey both in Ecuador and back home in Spain, was much less interesting to this reader.

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Long and detailed

There’s a lot of history and I used it mainly for getting to sleep. The narrator mispronounced the word ‘outlived’ numerous times.

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Great listen

Excellent writing. A real life adventure story worth listening to. It definitely shows the brutal nature of European exploration.