Child of the Snows brings to life the world of a sixteenth century Aymara community, one small part of the powerful Inka (Inca) empire. It opens with a pair of 20th century treasure hunters finding the tomb of a sacrificed child on the snowy summit of Mount El Plomo in Chile, then segues to the naming ceremony for an Aymara toddler—K’uchi-Wara. We learn about the community’s culture as it celebrates the Lupaka headman’s son with feast, song, and clever speeches. As K’uchi-Wara grows, we watch bonds develop in this close-knit group. Villagers care for their llamas and alpacas, trade with relatives near and far, teach children about their mountain deities. Children play, compete, dream, nag, and question. Life is full—until young K’uchi-Wara kills a white puma and attracts the attention of Inka overlords. At eight, he’s chosen to become a qhapaq hucha, an offering to the Inka deities.


As he and his parents, priests, and Inka official make the six-month journey south to El Plomo, K’uchi-Wara befriends another qhapaq hucha, visits temples and villages, crosses a chasm on a swinging bridge, feels his way through a dark tunnel cut through stone, walks past towering volcanoes and erupting geysers, and traverses the Atacama Desert, one of the most desolate places on earth. He also observes the complicated relationship between the Inkas and various conquered peoples.


Besom creates characters whose deeper questions get careful attention. Do Inka officials and priests actually believe the dogma they promote? Is belief a form of rationalizing—a way to live with actions whose real intent is to intimidate? How does a mother deal with her rage when told it’s an honor to lose her only son? How does a child deal with the knowledge that his own death—and elevation in status—will happen soon?


About the author:

For thirty-five years, Thomas Besom has been researching human sacrifice and mountain worship in the Inka Empire—studying both archaeological materials and ethnohistoric documents penned by early Spanish sources. A research associate in Anthropology at SUNY Binghamton, he has published two academic books: Of Summits and Sacrifice (2010) and Inka Human Sacrifice and Mountain Worship (2013). When not researching and writing, Besom likes to make art: sculptures in bronze, steel, wood, stone, plaster, even plastic. He also enjoys hiking, mountaineering, canoeing, and traveling. Child of the Snows is his first novel.