This is an astonishing book, a kaleidoscopic vision of how idealism allows even the most terrible atrocities to become permitted and normalized. The book is a novelization of the true story of Canudos, a utopian settlement made up of the broken, wounded and dispossessed in late 19th Century Brazil, set up by the visionary Councillor. The story unfolds in a series of linked personal stories, as Canudos is repeatedly assailed by armies of the territory of Bahia and the Republic of Brazil. The reader's sympathies are steered towards the occupants of Canudos, but beware - this is not a simple matter of 'good guys' and 'bad guys'. The visionaries of Canudos wreak terrible vengeance on their enemies, mutilating corpses, burning haciendas and blighting lives, while even the most bloodthirsty of professional soldiers is shown to have humanity and compassion. Both sides of the escalating conflict are totally convinced of their own 'rightness' and the evil of their opponents. This morally complex book works on many levels, and contains deep lessons for our own times, as well as opening a window into a terrible episode in South American history. Allow yourself to be drawn into this book, and it will haunt you for a long time.