Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek

Spanish Adventure Novels by Arturo Perez-Reverte

Shortly before N. and I took off, I found a copy of Arturo Perez-Reverte's The King's Gold for five bucks in a bargain bin. Hardly the first in a series--it is, in fact, the fourth--I had heard about his books based around the character Captain Alatriste and figured I'd give it a go if I ever came across one. According the what I'd heard, they were pretty enjoyable, and had a great use of history.

Perez-Reverte's series begins with Captain Alatriste and has proceeded through what I believe is seven novels, becoming an increasingly successful series based in the 17th Century to a backdrop of Spain's slow, crumbling power and corruption, and the rise of the British. Without wanting to diminish the adventure aspect of The King's Gold, there is no doubt in my mind that the plot and, perhaps, yes, the characters, take a backseat to the recreation of historical Spain, a subject that Perez-Reverte has a fine and easy grasp of, and lets run in the background of his book like a wild, half mad behemoth that will, ultimately, be the death of all. It's fairly glorious, to be quite honest with you, and I am not going to lie that one of the big draws for me when I hunt down the earlier and later parts of this series, is that setting.

Narrated by Alatriste's squire, Inigo, Perez-Reverte grabs an old pulp style of narration, having the story told long after the fact by an older Inigo who constantly makes references to the fate of characters throughout the book--going so far as to tell the death of Alatriste himself within the first chapter, years later. It is the kind of narrative style that will not work for some people, but I like it, and I've always had a soft spot for that particular form--though I do think that Perez-Reverte lets it drop in places when he focuses on Alatriste away from Inigo. They're good scenes, mind, and Alatrise is a much more interesting character than his squire--world wearied, cynical, hard and dangerous with his own strange loyalty to the King--it did break with some of the consistency with the novel, I thought. Overall, however, it's not too much of a problem, and the plot of a ship full of gold and Alatriste's employment to retain it moves pretty quickly and snappishly along the page.

There's not much else to it, outside that. Perez-Reverte tips his hat generously to Alexander Dumas and his Musketeer novels, but it's done with a lot of admiration, and never gets in the way of his own, Spanish built narrative, and the book is funny and daring and with touches of romance and an evil Italian, who I believe is a villain across the novels. But lets face it: if you have to have an Italian in your books, he really should be evil, shouldn't he?

Ultimately, it's an easy, light read, and Perez-Reverte doesn't try to sell you on anything else. The translation by Margaret Costa doesn't allow for the narrative to drop or become rough, and the biggest selling point, the 17th Century Spain and the historical characters, places, and atmosphere is maintained throughout the entire piece, making it well worth the time if you're looking for an afternoon's light reading.

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