The first of a projected five historicals from Pérez-Reverte (The Queen of the South, 2004, etc.) about the dashing fighter and gallant Alatriste.
When he’s 13, in 1620 or so, Iñigo Balboa goes to live for good with Captain Alatriste, Iñigo’s own father being dead (he’d been a comrade in arms with Alatriste) and it being Alatriste’s honor to care for the boy. Having achieved high fame as a soldier, Alatriste now earns his living as a hired killer in the dangerous streets and Byzantine politics of imperial Madrid. This doesn’t mean he’s not good, but certainly that he’s dangerous—and that his skills of stealth, cunning and swordplay bring danger to him. Take the case, for example, that comes his way right about the time young Iñigo arrives on the scene—a very remunerative matter of quietly snuffing two lone English travelers as, very late at night, they approach their destination. The deed is all but done when something about the victims—something noble—stays Alatriste’s blade as he spares the travelers and also awakens the eternal vengeance of his co-hit man, an especially blood-curdling Italian, not to mention the wrath of—yes, of the Inquisition itself, the institution, we learn, behind the attempted killing. And who were the near-victims? Well, of high rank indeed, enough so that their deaths might have altered the fate of nations—and enough so that Alatriste is now in grave danger of losing his own life as one who has foiled the high powers of oppression. How lucky that little Iñigo is in the picture, after all, not just so he can tell the story, but so that, as on one especially dark and dangerous night, he can do no less than save Alatriste’s life, ensuring that there may be new deeds aplenty in future.
A pleasure of swash, buckle and atmosphere, along with tidy infomercials on topics such as the poetry, theater and the traditions of the day.