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The Fencing Master

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  4,175 ratings  ·  205 reviews
Fencing is not a game but a science. The outcome is invariably the same: triumph or disaster, life or death...

It is 1868; Spain teeters on the brink of revolution. Jaime Astarloa is a master-fencer of the old school, priding himself on the precision, dignity and honour of his ancient art; his friends spend their days in cafes discussing plots at court, but Jaime's obsessio...more
Published December 30th 1999 by Vintage (first published 1988)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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This is my favourite of Perez-Reverte's books that I've read thus far. The stoic fencing maestro Jaime Astarloa is living out his remaining days of quiet desperation with a philosophical stiff upper lip as he watches the way of life he has devoted himself to fade into unlamented obscurity. Don Jaime spends his days teaching bratty aristocrats the art of the sword, an art they appear to no longer need or care about, and marking time with his few acquaintances in the Cafe Progresso; a sad group of...more
Don Jaime Astarloa has two convictions. The first one is to be a man of honor. The second is the belief that fencing is the ultimate art.

”The pistol is not a weapon, it is an impertinence. If two men are to kill each other, they should do so face-to-face, not from a distance, like vile highwaymen.”

Many people would describe Don Jaime as pompous with his old-fashioned believes. I think it only contributes to the feeling of a living character. Not everyone can be modern and interested in politic a...more
Jun 13, 2007 Kelly rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: teeangers, swashbuckling lit fans
This one is quite simple and straight forward. I might recommend it for a young adult who likes adventure stories. I just felt like it gave into stereotypes and predictability a little too much. Perez-Reverte has something of an obsession with the Dark Lady character out to destroy the man in love with her. Nowhere is that more prominent than in this novel. Usually it's woven in enough that it doesn't bother me, but having read his other ones and then read this one? It just made me roll my eyes...more
Bryan Frink
"The Fencing Master" by Arturo Perez-Reverte is a throwback to another time... in fact, even within the 1868 time setting of the story, the protagonist (a fencing master, go figure) is a throwback to another time, an era of pure honor and purer scruples. Of course, such an era has never existed, but within any moment there exist those Quixotic souls who live as if one might transcend the hungry groveling of politics, economics and sexuality.

Such behavior may be fantasy, but in my opinion so are...more
Don Jaime Astarloa is the one of the last of a noble, dying breed. As a master of the art of fencing, he lives his life by the rules of the blade, a code of conduct that centers around honorable swordsmanship and fair play. With modern weapons like the pistol gaining popularity, there is little interest in fencing, but Don Jaime is able to eke out a meager living teaching his art to the sons of the aristocracy. It is 1866, and Madrid is facing a storm of political upheaval as Queen Isabella II's...more
Arturo Pérez-Reverte es uno de mis escritores favoritos y quizás uno de los mejores escritores españoles vivos.

De formación periodista, pero con vocación de historiador y novelista, Pérez-Reverte tiene una facilidad envidiable para trasladarnos a la España del siglo XVII (el capitán Alatriste), la rebelión española contra Napoleón (Un día de cólera) o en el Madrid de mediados del siglo XIX, que es donde está ambientado El maestro de esgrima. Si bien su capacidad para evocar lugares, ambientes, s...more
Carlos Moreno
Tras leer el libro y analizar mis sensaciones he de decir que siento un sabor agridulce. La trama del libro y el tema son interesantes pero hay ciertas cosas que no me han gustado. Vayamos por partes:

Lo bueno:

+ El tema de la esgrima es, de por sí, muy interesante.

+ El autor habla de la esgrima en términos muy técnicos. Se ve que se ha documentado bien. Esto creo que es una constante en los libros de Pérez-Reverte (no olvidemos su pasado periodístico) y se me viene a la mente, por ejemplo, "La ta...more
I originally discovered Arturo Perez-Reverte through Johnny Depp’s film The Ninth Gate (based on Perez-Reverte’s book The Club Dumas). I was quickly enamored with his writing, which is fluid, descriptive, and intrinsically character based. My only complaint with The Club Dumas was the ending. I felt that Perez-Reverte had failed to give enough attention to completing his antiquarian book thriller, leaving the reader wanting for a better conclusion.

When I picked up The Fencing Master, I expected...more
Jan 02, 2008 Gaspar rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: spanish
I read this book in Spanish. This is the fourth Perez Reverte book I've read and once again he doesn't dissapoint. His writing is more in line with English/American authors than with traditional Spanish ones. In this book the author is more instrospective and develops the character of the protagonist in precise detail. You get to appreciate him for what he is, even if you don't completely agree with him. A lot of historical references regarding Spain can make it a little confusing if you do wish...more
Na minha opinião, pouco há a dizer sobre este livro, e isto não é propriamente negativo. Trata-se de uma história cuja acção decorre em Madrid, no séc. XIX, que desenvolve numa história de intriga política e policial. Não considero que seja uma obra brilhante - apesar de ser ela a responsável pela carreira internacional de Pérez-Reverte, segundo a contracapa do livro - mas também não é propriamente uma história de deitar fora. Peca apenas em dois aspectos: em primeiro lugar o contexto histórico...more
Oct 02, 2008 Caroline rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Caroline by: Emily
I enjoyed this, but I've never been terribly huge on long discourses on politics and the first half of this book really suffers from the characters discussing politics...a lot. That combined with a lot of technical fencing passages and I wasn't sure if I'd actually enjoy this, and I've actually practiced fencing but even understanding the terms and scenes I still was a bit bored by the technicalities.

It took about half the novel for the murder to actually occur, and things really got interesting...more
KC Anton
Pe`rez-Reverte describes historical people and actions in a very down-to-earth way in Spain of the late 1860's. We see Old World and New century changes in war, politics, and romance from the Fencing Master's aged point of view. Realizing he is from a world of honor and tradition you gain the stylized view of life as a game or fencing tradition—which has rules. The problem; life has no rules. The story starts slowly, as does life, and ends quickly, passionately, and possibly with no more meaning...more
Víctor Arturo Mercado Fernández

Después de la desilusión que me causó la serie del LAS AVENTURAS DEL CAPITAN ALATRISTE decidí darle una nueva oportunidad al autor, ya que su El club Dumas me pareció bastante bueno y todos merecemos una Segunda oportunidad.

Debo reconocer que la prosa es excelente y la manera en que va presentando a los personajes es la adecuada, sin embargo existen partes en el libro en que el tiempo parece detenerse, y cuando parece que al fin va a empezar a avanzar todo queda en un simple impulso que no cumpl

Good, but not great. Perhaps if I knew more about Spanish history in the mid to late 1800s, I would not have had to read so slowly to figure out who was doing what. Was surprised to see it was written in 1988. Had the literary style of an earlier era - rather liked that! However, not being interested in the details of fencing, I skipped over the many descriptions of the techniques. Also, I felt that only the characters of Don Jaime and Adela de Otero were developed enough to come alive. Because...more
The Fencing Master started off pretty slowly for me. There's quite a bit in the first half of the book about Spanish politics and power grabs, a lot about monarchists and revolutionaries, and I didn't find much of this to be very interesting. Enter Doña Adela de Otero. With her introduction into the story everything shifted.

The last half of the book proved itself to be a pretty good murder mystery/intrigue which made everything in the first half of the book relevant. I ended up feeling like the...more
Don Jaime is a fencing master of the classical style, and the inventor of a secret thrust. Grown older, and with the pistol increasing in popularity and rebellion fomenting in society all around, he is still living by the particular ethos of his life and training, setting him apart from his contemporaries. Into his humble life comes a beautiful woman who requests that he teach her his secret fencing thrust. What follows are murder, intrigue, and consequences.

The story is written from Don Jaime's...more
This is Perez-Reverte's second novel, set amidst the political intrigues between royalists and revolutionaries in mid-c19th Spain. While enjoyable as all of his novels are, The Fencing Master lacks much of the drama and pace of his succeeding works. The atmosphere is an effective one and the interactions between the characters move from dramatic to comic effortlessly. The protagonist, Don Jaime Astarloa, is a man out of his times, an idealist who remains committed to an ascetic life of bygone ch...more
Una novela correcta que aborda el tema de la esgrima de manera inusualmente directa, pero en mi opinión, demasiado simplista desde el punto de vista puramente técnico (como demasiado atrevido me parece, exponer en papel teorías de una ciencia de la que se es un completo profano); que no filosófico.

Un protagonista interesante, visiblemente trabajado, desafiántemente romántico -por lo que marginálmente incomprendido- con el que no cuesta empatizar: "el hidalgo que no sale a los caminos, porque los...more
I was once a fencer, so I ought to like that this book focuses on and romanticizes the sport. I'm not entirely sure why the author chose to write about a fencer as the centre of a story about romance and political intrigue in late 19th century Spain, but he did. Perhaps it's just the old-world idea that a man with a sword is somehow classy. I can tell you from experience that this is not true, but I digress.

The historical fiction aspects of the book are interesting, although I must confess I am...more
Robert Strandquist
Disappointed, I am. At first I thought the source of my problem lay in translation from Spanish to English. I couldn't decide if the melodramatic tone was in keeping with the plot's focus on a central character of honor. Don Jaime was a man living in the past when devotion to the art of fencing demanded respect, but times (the pistol) were changing around him. However, later on this tone shifted into one of action-adventure-mystery-suspense - a real thriller where his honorable qualities became...more
This is Perez-Reverte's second novel. It is a tale possessed of Perez-Reverte's typically meticulous attention to detail, and some might argue that it is the blueprint of the Alatriste novels, particularly when it touches upon the main character's (Jaime Astarloa) archaic sense of honour and the friends that he meet in the tavern. However I think that it is a novel which stands squarely on its own two feet, possessed of a gallery of distinctly original characters.
The novel's background is early...more
Elegantly written and translated book.

Set in Madrid in 1866 during a period of political unrest leading to the deposition of Isobel II.
If, like me, you have had little exposure to Spanish nineteenth century history, it is worth looking up Isobel II in Wikopedia. It helps to make sense of the discussions between the four friends who meet every afternoon in the Cafe Progreso.

Fencing terms and technique are used throughout the book to slowly build up the character of Jaime Astarlao the fencing mas...more
Seba Prieto
El aspecto físico del libro me ha gustado, tamaño de bolsillo, fácil de transportar, letra legible y buena abertura.
Una novela que me provocó una extraña sensación ya que siento que se cuentan dos historias que pueden ser perfectamente independientes una de otra pero que el autor se esfuerza por tratar de hacerlas coincidir. Por un lado tenemos el movimiento histórico de Madrid a finales del siglo XIX, se pone en manifiesto el actuar de personajes con poder y mucha ambición que harán lo que sea...more
Ce roman de cape et d'épée se déroule en Espagne à la fin de 19ème siècle. Le pays est alors en pleine mutation, l'art intemporel de l'escrime ne sera bientôt plus qu'un vestige du temps passé. Il n’est plus utilisé lors des duels car on lui préfère de vulgaires armes à feux et, désormais pratiqué par des femmes, on va même jusqu'à l'assimiler à un sport. Le vieux maître d'escrime, personnage principal de ce récit, se résout, malgré lui, à vivre avec son temps et accepte d'enseigner sont art à u...more
Bev Hankins
Set in the Madrid of 1868, it introduces us to the title character, Don Jaime--fencing master and a gentleman who still holds to the code of honor. This makes him an anachronism--even in 1868. Because the Madrid of this time period is full of political intrigue and there are men (and women) willing commit all sorts of of dishonorable deeds to bring down members of rival political parties. (Does this sound at all familiar?...the more things change, the more they stay the same. But I digress.) Don...more
Martin Mulcahey
Fencing Master, not Zoro, for Catherine Zeta-Jones and Antonio Banderas. As I was reading the book I thought that the actors from the first Zoro movie would be a great fit for the characters in this book. Enough of that though. I have to say I am a fan of historical fiction, but am not very interested in fencing nor the time period in which this book was set. However, Perez-Reverte made it all very intriguing and entertaining for me through the characters. Do not shy away from the book if the su...more
Elegantly written historical mystery set in Spain during the 1860's. Pérez-Reverte artfully draws the reader into the social and political turmoil of this place and time.

"The Fencing Master" is a novel of a time and place and the characters who inhabit that space; particularly it is the story of Don Jaime, the fencing master of the title and a man whose heart and soul belongs to an earlier time, when fencing was a matter of honor and of life and death. Don Jaime has resigned himself to graceful...more
L'amore impossibile verso una sua misteriosa, avvenente allieva molto più giovane di lui, non impedisce a un maturo maestro di scherma madrileno di rimanere fedele ai suoi incrollabili principi e al senso dell'onore che hanno permeato tutta la sua vita privata e pubblica. Ambientato in una Madrid della seconda metà dell'ottocento in bilico tra monarchia e richiami rivoluzionari, questo romanzo mi ha intrigato fin dalle prime pagine per la sua capacità di coniugare l'avventura, l'intrigo politico...more
The Fencing Master is billed as a period whodunit but I would argue that it's not really a mystery but instead a nice piece of fiction. Yes, there are some dead bodies but it's not a traditional mystery with clues to be followed. The book is set in 1868 and centers around an aging fencing master in Spain who is reluctant to change with the times. Grudgingly he accepts a female client who wants to learn the secret of the unstoppable thrust. There is political unrest that becomes part of the main...more
Mrs W
In 1868 Madrid, Don Jaime is a fifty-something fencing master who is watching his art die out as guns become the weapon of choice. Around him, his country is experiencing a revolution, as the monarchy is being threatened by the desire for democracy. Don Jaime prefers to stay out of all this, but a conspiracy enters his life through his fencing studio and a beautiful young woman who is willing to pay him to teach her his most powerful move.
• One use of a PG-13 swear word
• Some sexuality—fencing b...more
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