Have you read: ‘Captain Alatriste’ is a swashbuckling adventure
March 6, 2006
“Captain Alatriste” by Arturo Pèrez-Reverte
Spending a great deal of time working in the bookstore generally means I get to read more about reading than actually sitting down with a good book. The vast quantities of reviews, advertisements, press releases and recommendations that flow through my hands can make jumping into a novel at the end of the day more like work than pleasure.
That is, of course, until a book comes along that really catches my attention, compels rather than awaits, requires savoring each and every word. These are the books that remind me of why I have chosen the bookstore, why every moment around the shelves of novels, biographies and histories reaffirms the desire to immerse myself in literature. “Captain Alatriste” is just such a book.
Arturo Pèrez-Reverte, although quite popular for many of his previous works, has been most recently in the media with “Queen of the South,” an amazing story of betrayal and revenge revolving around a Mexican girl in her early 20s who is caught up in a bloody drug war. Now, the Cartagena-born author has turned his attention to a series of historical adventure novels set in 17th-century Spain.
“Captain Alatriste” is narrated by 13-year-old Inigo Balboa, the son of a long-dead comrade and friend of Alatriste, who is sent to the captain by his widowed mother. The young man is promptly folded into the life of the courageous, and sometimes less than honorable, former soldier “at a rank somewhere between servant and page.”
As with all of Pèrez-Reverte’s works, the translation from Spanish is flawless and the author’s turn of phrase and dialog are truly a delight to read. The protagonist, for calling Capt. Diego Alatriste a hero would be a stretch, is delightfully human in virtually all respects. A former professional soldier who now makes his living by the sword, the captain finds himself forced to take work below his rank in order to provide for himself and the young narrator.
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When Alatriste is hired to murder two English travelers by hooded figures, apparently acting on the behalf of Fray Emilio Bocanegra, “president of the Holy Tribunal of the Inquisition,” the plot really begins in develop. Not only does the captain risk the attention of the Inquisition by not following through with his task, he infuriates the murderous Italian assassin who was hired to help in the killing.
As the fast-paced story unfolds, both Alatriste and his young ward are drawn ever deeper into a vast intrigue of international politics and brutal deceits. This is historical adventure at its swashbuckling best; well-developed characters and spirited action pair off nicely to create a nicely paced read of delightful proportion.
As I mentioned earlier, this is the first in a series of historical adventure novels from Pèrez-Reverte that continue in the just released “Purity of Blood,” a hard-cover novel with the ongoing misadventures of Captain Diego Alatriste and Inigo Balboa. Additionally, there will be a movie starring Viggo Mortensen released at a currently undisclosed date in 2006.
– Michael Stroschein is co-owner/manager of Neighbors Bookstore in the Village Center.