A story of magic and apocalypse set in the American Southwest of the sixteenth century, Teresa of the New World weaves together history and myth, real-life conquistadors and shape-shifting jaguars, the devastation of plague and the promise of home.
In 1532, along a swampy, mosquito-filled bay in coastal Texas, four-year-old Teresa is content as the beloved daughter of a Capoque mother and the shipwrecked Spanish conquistador Cabeza de Vaca. Then one day her father decides to leave the tribe, taking Teresa with him and whispering in her ear of a glorious future. Walking westward into the setting sun, their travels are accompanied by miracles–visions and prophecies. But when they finally reach the outposts of New Spain, life is not at all what her father had promised.
As a kitchen servant in the household of a Spanish official, Teresa grows up estranged from the magic she knew as a child, when she could speak to the earth and listen to animals. When an epidemic of measles devastates the area, the sixteen-year-old sets off on her own journey, befriending a Mayan were-jaguar who cannot control his shape-shifting and a warhorse abandoned by his Spanish owner. Now Teresa moves through a land stalked by Plague: smallpox as well as measles, typhus and scarlet fever.
Soon it becomes clear that Teresa and her friends are being manipulated and driven by forces they do not understand. Who or what is following them? What role does her father still have in her life? And can anyone really outwit the devious, cynical figure of Plague?
To save herself and others, Teresa will find herself listening again to the earth, sinking underground, swimming through limestone and fossil, opening to the power of stone and root, raven and bear. As she searches for her place in the New World, she will travel farther and deeper than she had ever dreamed.