Thursday, October 05, 2006

Captain Alatriste -- Arturo Perez-Reverte

Captain Alatriste is the swashbuckling tale of a former Spanish soldier in Madrid in the early 17th-century, the siglo del oro, when Spain was one of the world's great powers.

The title character fought in Flanders, where he got a serious wound. No longer able to serve, he ekes out a living by selling his sword to whoever can pay. At the start of the book he and another man are hired by some powerful figures (who wear masks) to attack a couple of travellers and frighten them, maybe wound them, but not to kill them. When the masked men leave the room, one of the leaders of the Inquisition steps in and changes the orders. The men are to be killed. Who are the men? I'll let you find out, but let's just say that one of them shows up in The Three Musketeers, as well.

Things don't go as planned. Because of the gallantry of one of the travellers, Alatriste refuses to kill them. He won't let his companion kill them, either. This doesn't endear him to the Inquisitor or to his companion, and things get complicated, as you might have guessed.

The mother of the book's first-person narrator, Inigo Balboa, has placed him with Alatriste because she can no longer support him. Inigo tells the story years after its occurrence, and he naturally drifts into third person when describing events that he wasn't present to witness. The POV shift is handled pretty deftly, I thought.

My only problem with the book: not enough swashbuckling. It's all too obviously the first book of a series, so there's a lot of set-up, and a lot of introductory stuff of the "Little did I know the trouble that he would cause us in later years" kind. There's also a lot of history that occassionally slows down the narrative, or at least it did for me.

There's already a movie of the book (or actually all the books in the series). It's called Alatriste, and it stars Viggo Mortensen. It was made in Spain, and I don't know if it's had an American release. If so, it never played Houston. I'd kind of like to see it.


Scott Cupp said...

I have liked other books by Arturo Perez-Reverte, most notably THE CLUB DUMAS which was butchered as a movie.

Graham said...

I've only read THE FLANDERS PANEL, which was excellent, but my wife is a big fan of Perez-Reverte.