Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s moody, wounded semi-hero in Captain Alatriste — part cantankerous mercenary, part man of honor in a roiling society of pomp, pistols, and provocation — is a whole-cloth invention out of 17th-century Madrid that has led to a 21st-century literary phenomenon. Thanks to his storytelling panache, the author has become a superstar in his native Spain, while six previous books published in the U.S. (including The Club Dumas and The Queen of the South) have established a Stateside fan club.
The American launch of the Alatriste series, then, introduces a charismatic, complicated leading man who surrounds himself with equally volatile types, both fictional and historical. During the course of his adventures, narrated by the captain’s young page, I`igo Balboa, the captain crosses paths with, in no particular order, the Prince of Wales, the painter Velazquez, the legendary Spanish playwright Lope de Vega, and the Inquisition. The clash and dash are thrilling; the swordplay is a bonus.