The King's Fifth

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The King's Fifth
First edition
AuthorScott O'Dell[1]
CountryUnited States
GenreChildren's novel
PublisherHoughton Mifflin
Publication date
September 1966
Media typePrint (Hardcover, Paperback)
Pages272 pp (hardcover)
ISBN0-395-06963-7 (hardcover), ISBN 0-440-94538-0 (paperback)

The King's Fifth (1966) is a children's historical novel by Scott O'Dell that was the inspiration for the cartoon TV series The Mysterious Cities of Gold.[2] It describes, from the point of view of a teenage Spanish Conquistador, how the European search for gold in the New World of the Americas affected people's lives and minds.[3] The title refers to the one fifth share of spoils expected by the Spanish Crown.

Plot summary[edit]

The story takes place in a time when the Spanish adventurers known as Conquistadors roamed the New World of the Americas in search of the mythical gold treasures of the dethroned Native Americans.


  • Estéban de Sandoval - a teenage mapmaker to the expedition
  • Zia Troyano - a younger teenage Native American guide
  • Captain Blas de Mendoza (very loosely based on Antonio de Mendoza) - an aristocrat in search of gold
  • Father Francisco - a priest to the expedition who joined as a missionary and an explorer
  • Roa and Zuñiga - part of a trio of musicians who are Mendoza's cronies


TV series[edit]

The book was the inspiration for the 1982-1983 French cartoon TV series "Les Mystérieuses Cités d'or (The Mysterious Cities of Gold). A few of the central characters take their names from the book, the high-level quest (searching for the Cities of Gold) is the same, and the "golden lake" scene from the book is also present in the cartoon, but the similarities end there (the cartoon has motifs of fantasy and science fiction). The cartoon is set in South America, whereas the expedition in the book explores New Mexico and Arizona in North America.

Choose Your Own Adventure book[edit]

The book is also a slight influence in the Choose Your Own Adventure Time Machine's 1987 book Quest for the Cities of Gold, as the reader meets Esteban at different points.

Awards and nominations[edit]


  1. ^ "Scott O'Dell, 91; 'Writer of Books That Children Read'". 18 October 1989 – via LA Times.
  2. ^ "Buried Treasure - Mysterious Cities of Gold". Anime News Network.
  3. ^ "THE KING'S FIFTH by Scott O'Dell - Kirkus Reviews" – via
  4. ^
  5. ^ Cullinan, Bernice E.; Person, Diane Goetz (1 January 2005). "The Continuum Encyclopedia of Children's Literature". A&C Black – via Google Books.
  6. ^ Payment, Simone (15 December 2005). "Scott O'Dell". The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc – via Google Books.
  7. ^ The King's Fifth - reviews and awards Archived 2008-10-06 at the Wayback Machine