Captain Alatriste by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, Phoenix 2006, 248pp.
My friend Laurie really likes Pérez-Reverte's stuff, and so a decade or so ago I read The Club Dumas and The Flanders Panel. I remember thinking those books were all right, but that there was some aspect of the writing that annoyed me, so I resolved not to read any more. But on my way back from China I needed a book for the zombie existence of air travel, so I gave this swashbuckling Alatriste a try.
It is a good read for the plane, very reminiscent of The Three Musketeers. In fact, it is the exact same time period, and the Duke of Buckingham figures in both, only this time in Madrid (where, by the way, I feasted on tapas last weekend with John, Suzanne and Katherine). Alatriste is the down-on-his-luck yet oddly honorable swordsman, hired to kill for the Inquisition, or some other mysterious party.
So why am I being cruel with a three-star rating? Well, for one thing the poetry is awfully dull. I hope the translation is to blame. And for another, the boy-narrator gets one piece of action but otherwise is a non-entity, as is the bar-owning part-time girlfriend of Alatriste. Well, the boy is in love with a girl who seems like she will grow up to be a Milady de Winter, so maybe the series improves. Speaking of Milady, I wonder if O'Brian named Diana Villiers with Buckingham in mind?
I should just read more Dumas. God knows there is a lot of it! The last one I read was The Black Tulip, out of Holland and bubble interest. The Musketeer movie with Michael York was one of the first DVDs I got for my small permanent collection.