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Arturo and Carlota Pérez-Reverte


Las Aventuras del Capitán Alatriste

Book review by Anthony Campbell. The review is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Captain Diego Alatriste is a soldier of fortune living in seventeenth-century Madrid, a wild city full of assassins and cut-throats as well as poets and artists, for we are in the Siglo de Oro. Although Alatriste calls himself "Captain", this is a courtesy title for he never rose above sergeant, from which position he was reduced to the ranks for a brawl.

The captain makes a living, of sorts, by hiring himself out as a swordsman to settle accounts on behalf of less adventurous men. But he has his own code of honour: he will not hurt women or children and he never stabs anyone in the back, always face to face, though seldom with much warning.

Alatriste has a page, a young lad called Iñigo, whose soldier father, now dead, had served with Alatriste in the Flemish wars. Iñigo becomes devoted to the captain, even managing to save his life on one occasion. It is he who narrates the story, though he is writing as an adult long after the events he describes, which allows him to include descriptions of Madrid and discussions of politics. These are somewhat over-long and can be skipped without detriment to the narrative.

As well as Alatriste himself we encounter a number of his friends and acquaintances, some of whom, like the poet (and swordsman) Francisco de Quevedo, are historical. Quite a few verses by Quevedo and others are included for good measure, and the book is illustrated with line drawings.

This book is one in a series narrating the adventures of the brave swordsman. In this episode Alatriste is paid by some mysterious masked men to assassinate a pair of Englishmen who are coming into Madrid. As there are two targets there is also a second swordsman, a sinister Italian. The attack doesn't proceed as planned and Alatriste then finds himself embroiled in a complex situation in which his own life is in serious danger.

For English-speaking readers this book can be compared with the Flashman novels of George MacDonald Fraser or the naval series by Patrick O'Brian, though the tone is different. I enjoyed the book and shall probably read more in the series.

6 December 2007

%T El Capitán Alatriste
%S Las Aventuras del Capitán Alatriste
%A Arturo Pérez-Reverte
%A Carlota Pérez-Reverte
%I Alfaguara
%C Buenos Aires
%D 1996
%G ISBN 84-2048353-2
%P 237pp
%K fiction
%O illustrations by Carlos Puerta
%O in Spanish

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