Book Reviews

Review Rating

With the October 2004 review, we began rating the books on the basis of one to four trowels; 
one trowel= don’t bother, to four trowels= run right out to your local book store and buy the hard cover!

Back to all reviews

Cibola by David Wood

Reviewed on: April 1, 2010


Gryphonwood Press: Grayson, GA
2009 (pb)

This is the second tale of adventure in the Dane Maddock series and it finds our hero up to his eyeballs in intrigue and danger right from the outset. Maddock is an ex-Navy SEAL and now a marine archaeologist who happens to be on the scene to rescue fellow archaeologist Jade Ihara when she is trapped in an underwater tunnel and submerged well site in Argentina. The beautiful archaeologist (Jade, not Dane) is so grateful for her rescue, that she shares with Dane the obsession of her professional life and convinces him to join her on her quest. She spins a tale of the legend of the Seven Golden Cities of Cibola, supposedly established in 714 AD in the southwest of the New World by seven Roman Catholic bishops who fled Spain following the Moorish invasion. Spanish conquistadors such as Cortez and Coronado pillaged the New World searching for the lost treasures of the seven cities, only to fail miserably and the legend was forever deemed a part of New World mythology. But a long-lost journal, discovered in Spain and penned by a Spanish priest, Fray Marcos de Niza, strongly suggested that Cibola was not mythological, that he had witnessed the fabled cities with his own eyes, but for some mysterious reason believed they should remain hidden from the plundering Spaniards. The journal hinted that a clue to the location of the Seven Cities could be found in the well Jade had been exploring in Argentina, where Fray Marcos had been exiled when he had fallen out of favor with the Church and secular powers. Against his better judgment—there are allusions to Dane’s earlier adventure, documented in the first volume, Dourado, in which he became unhappily involved in a quest for religious treasures—Dane joins Jade in another dive into the tunnel and well and discover an armored breastplate that seems to have a map engraved on it—a map that could lead them to Cibola!

What follows is a rollicking adventure into the desert Southwest of the United States, through the lands once occupied by the ancient Anasazi—the Four Corners area of Chaco Canyon– and up to Utah, where Dane’s sidekick, Native American adventurer Uriah “Bones” Bonebrake, is working on a dig with his cousin, archaeologist Isaiah Horsley. Along with documenting aboriginal pictographs, Bones uncovers a cliff painting showing native figures bowing down to a bearded European-looking individual. Could this be proof of the Mormon belief that Christ preached to the Indians in a pre-Columbian America? The local news media certainly seems to want to believe this, as does the new lead archaeologist who replaces Isaiah when he beaten senseless by mysterious assailants after the “Jesus” painting becomes known to the public.

Dane and Jade and their small crew follow Fray Marcos’ clues from one Anasazi ruin to another—Square Tower House to the Sun Temple to Hovenweep– until the trail merges with Bones’ adventures in Utah as the secret of Cibola seems tied to ruins submerged beneath Lake Powell. Along the way they pick up ruthless enemies in black helicopters, who seem willing to stop at nothing to discover Cibola before Dane and Jade do. These enemies may be tied to a mysterious organization called the Deseret Dominion that supposedly supports Mormon interests from without the church body proper!

The breakneck action continues to virtually the last page and involves modern-day conspiracies and gun-toting mercenaries of the Dominion, as well as the theory that the Biblical Moses and the Egyptian heretic king, Akhenaton were one and the same, that the Dead Sea Scrolls told of hidden treasures from Solomon’s Temple, that the Knights Templar discovered those treasures and transported them to the desert Southwest of the New World—thus providing the germ of truth leading to the legend of Cibola! And if that weren’t enough of a challenge to our intrepid adventurers, the treasure trove hidden far underground seems to be “protected” by deadly dark nightmare creatures that gave rise to the legend of the “chupacabra”—a creature usually associated with Mexico and South America, that attack livestock and human beings. The name literally means, “goat sucker!” But to make matters even worse, in between attacks by the subterranean night creatures and the minions of the Dominion, Dane must face the possibility that Jade has been using his skills for her own ends and may even be an agent of the Dominion!

All of this sounds utterly absurd—and it is!—but it is also a wonderful guilty pleasure and a fun read. The action is non-stop, the piling up of one legend upon another is relentless, and everyone save the humorless Dominion types seem to be having a great deal of fun dodging bullets and deciphering arcane clues left by the good Fray Marcos. The archaeology is none too realistic—in fact it makes Indian Jones movies look like Smithsonian Channel documentaries in comparison—but it’s still great fun.

Two trowels for this beach-worthy or airport waiting-room adventure novel!

Twenty Years in the Trenches: Archaeology in Fiction

William Gresens, longtime MVAC supporter and volunteer, has been writing reviews of archaeological fiction as MVAC’s book reviewer for twenty years.  In this interview Bill shares how he got started writing reviews for MVAC, how the genre has changed, highlights, and his thoughts looking forward. 

Bill Gresen’s Book Review 20th Anniversary

While Bill's reviews go back 20 years now, his relationship with MVAC goes back more than twice that long! The reviews capture some of the things we enjoy most about Bill-- he's perceptive, methodical, a clear thinker, and a whole lot of fun! We look forward to this relationship--and Bill's reviews!--continuing for many years to come.

The March 2021 review marks the 20th anniversary of reviews of archaeological fiction.  It has been my pleasure and great fun to while away the hours reading these books—for the most part, at least—and writing the reviews!  My thanks to MVAC allowing me to prattle on and I look forward to the years ahead.

Bill Gresens