Anthony's Reviews > The Fencing Master

The Fencing Master by Aturo Pérez-Reverte
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's review
Sep 16, 2010

really liked it

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 chivalry, blind to the corruptions and ambiguities of his own world. Perez-Reverte works well to convey the historical specificity of Spain in 1866, and the exposition of the novel is a multi-layered and nuanced. However, there is an almost self-indulgent focus on detailing the intricacies of Don Jaime's life at the expense of praxis. The denouement seemed to come too late and too swiftly to be satisfying, but the jarring and somewhat tragic conclusion is perhaps what the author intended all along: the reader has perhaps invested a lot in such a short novel precisely because of the distended sketching of character that has taken place. So, when the end comes, it's abruptness matches the movements of the final bout of fencing itself: the elegant, poised movements of the text are concluded with a sudden flash of the blade in quarte.

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