Do you prefer your adventure novels on the literary side, a la Patrick O’Brian or Alexandre Dumas? Then Arturo Perez-Reverte’s Captain Alatriste series might just be the thing for you. Set in 17th century Madrid, Diego Alatriste is a world-weary veteran of the imperial Spanish army. Along with his sidekick and protege, sixteen year-old Inigo Balboa, Alatriste brawls his way into and out of courtly political intrigue, usually disastrous military expeditions, as well as an occasional scrape with the Spanish Inquisition.
Most of each novel is written in conventional third person. But we are also told the story in the first person by Inigo Balboa, years later as an old man, as he reminisces on the adventures of his youth. There is a tenderness and poignancy to the old man’s memory of himself as a brash young soldier of fortune that is quite charming and often melancholic.
In the first book of the series, Captain Alatriste, the captain and a compadre (and soon to be nemesis), Gualterio Malatesta, are hired by two mysterious masked men to assassinate a pair of English visitors to Madrid. What appears to be a straight-forward hit job may well spark a European war as the identities of the two Englishmen become known.
Set amid the pompous grandeur of a fading Spanish empire, the Captain Alatriste novels are soaked in the wine, sun, literature and blood of another, perhaps more romantic time. The language is refined and a bit archaic, a tone that perfectly suits the setting of the books.
And you can reserve Captain Alatriste here.