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Captain Alatriste

Perez-Reverte offers a swashbuckling adventure of one “Captain” Alatriste, a thug-for-fire, I mean, swashbuckler in 1620s Madrid. Alatriste’s adventure is a straightforward one, and is narrated by his young apprentice, who functions as a kind of nigh-omniscient narrator who tells the tale in his old age. The plot is interesting, but tends to drag between the few sharp scenes of intrigue and derring-do. I couldn’t help but wonder at times if the meandering interludes were little more than filler material, but Perez-Reverte’s writing style takes some of the sting out of that concern. If you are expecting non-stop, madcap escapades, you will be disappointed; Alatriste is a contemplative, melancholic sort with, one imagines, many regrets.
A note on the book’s presentation: this is a slim volume with a relatively short page count, a large font, and plenty of white space per page. Perez-Reverte also has a tendency to intersperse his prose with numerous snatches of poetry. You may find this charming, or you may find it tedious. I am somewhere in the middle. The translation is very smooth and doesn’t distract the reader.All in all, I recommend the book. It’s an extremely short, light read punctuated by some fun scenes of action and intrigue, though there’s not a tremendous amount of substance here.
3.5 stars out of 5
Review copyright 2008 J. Andrew Byers
Purity of Blood
This is the first sequel to Captain Alatriste, and is very similar in structure and tone to the original. Most of the characters made their appearance in the first book as well. As with the first book, the plot is a simple, straightforward one. That’s not a bad thing. It takes on a decidedly dark tone (perhaps more so than the original), and Perez-Reverte is certainly not above allowing bad things to happen to good people. Such is life in Spain of the 1620s. Some readers may find the prose too sparse, but it does create a fast-moving read. At times, I found the narrator’s – Alatriste’s teenage ward describing the tale in his old age – mention of events that had not yet happened to be distracting and annoying, but it does provide a sense that this is merely one anecdote in a convoluted continuity.
As with the first volume in the series, this is a slim volume with a relatively short page count, a large font, and plenty of white space per page. Perez-Reverte continues his tendency to intersperse the prose with numerous snatches of poetry. You may find this charming, or you may find it tedious. I am somewhere in the middle, vaguely wondering what the point is. The translation is very smooth and doesn’t distract the reader.
I will most likely continue reading the series – as long as I continue finding them in the remainder bin – but just be aware: absolutely nothing unexpected happens in the book.
3.5 stars out of 5
Review copyright 2008 J. Andrew Byers
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