Robert Farrington has made a judicious selection of historical personages and events in writing this epic novel. Reflecting an understanding of early Spanish exploration and conquest in the Americas, he portrays the legendary exploits of one of Spain’s most renowned conquistadores, the expedition of Vasco Núñez de Balboa to the South Sea. By this selection Farrington was not only blessed with a dauntless and high type adelantado as his main character, but also with a famous group of followers, such as Francisco Pizarro, as his secondary personages.
Farrington’s Balboa, which must be evaluated as a novel and not as a scholarly monograph, possesses historical value, particularly for the non-academic historian. Although the author has necessarily relied on an imaginative dialogue, the work graphically reflects an understanding of the Spanish and of the period. The reader is thus vividly impressed with the cruelty, intolerance, and materialism of the conquistadores but simultaneously becomes aware of their deep faith, their recognition of noble Indian traits, and their ability to remain civilized in savage environment. Undoubtedly, the depiction of the role of the dog in the conquest and the oversympathetic characterization of Vasco Núñez are most impressive in this work.