**spoiler alert** Competent and entertaining historical mystery set at the time of Eleanor of Acquitaine and Richard the Lionheart. Penman is a good s**spoiler alert** Competent and entertaining historical mystery set at the time of Eleanor of Acquitaine and Richard the Lionheart. Penman is a good story teller and knows the details of daily life very well.
But as I often find with this genre mix, the interests of historical fiction clash with the contrived requirements of the mystery story. In this case, the early promise of court intrigue involving the kidnapped King Richard and his dastardly brother Prince John never come to anything. Instead we are served up a conventional murder mystery with some characters who would seem more at home in a 1940s B-movie mystery. Also, while the main characters are engaging and sympathetic, too often they do not seem to act or speak like people of their time. ...more
Some reviewers have found the full text version long and tedious. Can't speak to that, but I can say I enjoyed this abridged version, with wonderful nSome reviewers have found the full text version long and tedious. Can't speak to that, but I can say I enjoyed this abridged version, with wonderful narration by Will Patton.
The setting is one I know little about (Appalachia and the Cherokee Nation in the 19th Century) so to me the story was fresh and surprising. As others have pointed out, the story of the White Man befriended by the Indians is a standard of American Lit, going all the way back to Fenimoore Cooper -- (and insightfully elucidated in Leslie Fiedler's classic critique, Love and Death in the American Novel). What I found most interesting here was the presentation of the Native Americans as intermingling with the Europeans--in blood, culture and behavior. I've an idea that this is pretty close to what actually happened with the Cherokee.
In summary then, you can think of Thirteen Moons as a kind of post-modern Last of the Mohicans: a realistic historical adventure imbued with irony and melancholy. ...more
Enjoyable if rather slow and melancholy historical adventure.
Set in Madrid in the 1600s, with Spain still ruler of a world Empire and still in the griEnjoyable if rather slow and melancholy historical adventure.
Set in Madrid in the 1600s, with Spain still ruler of a world Empire and still in the grip of the Inquisition, but decadent and slowly loosing power. The hero is an out-of-work solider, a war hero who must earn his living as a hired sword.
What action there is centers around interesting political intrigue and exciting sword fights. But what action there is interrupted (alas) by longwinded scenes of men talking in taverns and drunkenly bemoaning the dismal state of their world. The plot and intrigues deliberately mirror The Three Musketeers (even to the point of a visit by a somewhat younger Duke of Buckingham triggering the action). What's missing (alas) is the exuberance and joi de vivre of D'Artangan and his crew: maudlin Spaniards in place of dashing Frenchmen.
I also found the first-person point-of-view a problem. Because, uh, it's only sometimes first person.
The story is told by the hero's squire, and his hero worship tempered with keen obeservation of character is one of the highlights of the book. He comes across as somewhat more down-to-earth than his idealistic master, and there is nice subtle flavor of Sancho Panza playing to Alatriste's Don Quixote. Unfortuneately, in half the book the narrator himself is not present, and we flop, without explanation, into a third-person point-of-view focused on Alatriste. Technically troubling, but maybe that's just me.
It's interesting to compare this novel to other popular historical adventures of recent years: the series by Bernard Cornwall or Wilbur Smith's Egyptian books. Those are mostly all action, bluster and thunder, with just enough character to fill-out the costumes and carry the swords. Perez-Reverte's focus on interior life and complex emotion gives us much more lifelike and likeable characters, but the action (alas) trundles along too slowly, when it moves at all . The sweet spot for this reader is somewhere between these extremes.
At a mere 250 pages, I found Captain Alatriste a slow read, and was left feeling a lot more should have happened.
Complex, poignant, impressively erudite, fascinating and heart-breaking. To call this a historical mystery is by far inadequate. It is more like the aComplex, poignant, impressively erudite, fascinating and heart-breaking. To call this a historical mystery is by far inadequate. It is more like the apotheosis of the historical mystery.
The same events are recounted four ways by four different narrators. Which, if any, is the "reliable" narrator?
Did I mention the theological implications? A great book....more