I love a good swashbuckler, and the tales of Alatriste had been on my radar screen for a while. I was thrilled to find a copy of “Captain Alatriste” at my local used book store.
It was all I had hoped for, sort of Dumas with a Spanish flavor. In the days of Philip IV, after the defeat of the famed Spanish Armada, a soldier of fortune takes on a bloody job — and finds himself embroiled in intrigue, mingling with Europe’s movers and shakers, and wondering when death might find him.
Like Alexandre Dumas and Rafael Sabatini, Arturo Pérez-Reverte has his fictional characters mingle with real figures from history: Buckingham and Charles of Wales loom large here. Like Dumas, the author shares bits about the men of letters of the time, in this case poets and playwrights such as Francesco de Quevedo, Conde de Guadalmedina and others. Pérez-Reverte even goes off on tangents, much like Dumas, to dwell upon bits of history and literature, though his asides are less numerous and less far afield than those of Dumas.
Pérez-Reverte published this, the first in a series I will now track down diligently, in 1996, so the prose and sensibilities are more modern than those of his literary forebears. I do not recall, for instance, D’Artagnan or Captain Blood thinking “we are fucked” when things went bad. “Captain Alatriste” is shorter and leaner than the typical works of Dumas and Sabatini, but it is no less intriguing. This author goes for grit where the others painted in brighter colors and broader strokes, and I found I liked that change of pace.
I highly recommend “Captain Alatriste” to anyone who enjoys a good swashbuckler.