Monday, July 09, 2007


by Arturo Perez-Reverte
A Plume Book
267 pages

In this day and age there are far too few swashbuckling adventures available. I can remember growing up in the 60s being able to watch old Errol Flynn movies, or read wonderful costume classics like Dumas’s The Three Musketeers or The Man in the Iron Mask and the more modern pirate tales of Raphael Sabbatini. It seemed like the only such costume fiction being produced these days were those sugar-sweet Harlequin Romances. Thus I was overjoyed to discover this novel by Spanish writer, Arturo Perez-Reverte.

It is one of series featuring a master swordsman named Captain Diego Alatriste. This veteran of the Flanders War earns a peacetime living as a hired sword to whoever can pay him. Perez-Reverte does an excellent job of recreating historical Madrid and he populates it with both real and fictional figures equally well. Sometimes when a book is translated from its original language, its tempo and atmosphere suffer. That is not the case here, as translator Margaret Sayers Peden offers up a skillful interpretation which maintains the poetic ebb and flow of Perez-Reverte’s narrative.

In this adventure, Captain Alatriste is employed to help rescue a young woman from a nunnery where she is being sexually abused. Because of a debt of honor, Alatriste reluctantly accepts the assignment, despite his intuitive misgivings. Sure enough, during the execution of the mission, he and his companions are betrayed. Although he manages to escape, his ward, the thirteen year old Inigo Balboa, is not so lucky. The boy is captured by one of Alatriste’s deadliest foes and delivered into the hands of the Holy Inquisition. Locked in the dank dungeons of the Toledo by sadistic priests, the lad is framed and convicted of being Jewish; a crime punishable by death.

When Alatriste learns of his fate, he must call upon certain allies in high places to help him save Inigo. Unless he can produce a miracle within a few short days, the boy will be burned at the stake in the town square. PURITY OF BLOOD is a rollicking, old fashion adventure done with a new twist and set in an intriguing time and background. There are plenty of sword fights, back alley ambushes and cunning conspiracies at every turn. All of which test Alatriste mettle to the brink of death.

If you too long for these kind of long forgotten thrills, I strongly urge you to pick up PURITY BLOOD. I can almost guarantee, once you do, you will soon be hunting up the earlier books in this series. Just like me.


Glen said...

Sounds great! i think the return of the swashbuckler is one of the side effects of the poularity of Pirates of the Carribean.

One of the good parts of the law of unintended consequences.

Jim Black said...

This sounds like a new pulp classic. I will have to order this book. Thank you.

P.S. I commented and linked to this on my new Focus on Pulp Adventure blog(
Let me know if there is anything else I can do to help promote pulp fiction.

Ron Fortier said...

Thanks Jim, I really appreciate that.
Can't ever have enough good pulp fiction. I, myself, just picked up the first in this swashbuckling series. Look for a review soon.

Doc Holaday said...

I read The Club Dumas and enjoyed it very much. It's a detective novel crossed with horror fiction about an antiquarian who is tracking down copies of an occult tome. At the same time, a missing chapter of The Three Musketeers and the secret society on which it is based becomes involved. Odd, but cool.

Ron Fortier said...

Thanks for posting that, Doc. Now I know I want to find and read that one. Meanwhile, as I mentioned earlier, I've still the first book in this series to get to. Ha, so many books and so little time. What a wonderful problem to have.