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.

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

Plot summary


The story takes place in a time when the Spanish adventurers, known as Conquistadors, colonised 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 to Cibola to find the gold
  • 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


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


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



  1. ^ "Scott O'Dell, 91; 'Writer of Books That Children Read'". Los Angeles Times. 18 October 1989.
  2. ^ "Buried Treasure - Mysterious Cities of Gold". Anime News Network. 10 February 2024.
  3. ^ "THE KING'S FIFTH by Scott O'Dell". Kirkus Reviews.
  4. ^ "STREAMS TO THE RIVER, RIVER TO THE..." Los Angeles Times. July 20, 1986.
  5. ^ Cullinan, Bernice E.; Person, Diane Goetz (1 January 2005). The Continuum Encyclopedia of Children's Literature. A&C Black. ISBN 9780826417787 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ Payment, Simone (15 December 2005). Scott O'Dell. The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc. ISBN 9781404206519 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ "The King's Fifth - reviews and awards". Archived from the original on October 6, 2008.