Purity of Blood – Arturo Perez-Reverte

Okay first up is ‘Purity of Blood’ by Arturo Perez-Reverte, an author I’m really getting into at the moment, I’ve got a stack of his books waiting to be read, but I’m really enjoying what I’ve seen so far.

‘Purity of Blood’ is the second in a series of novels about Captain Alatriste, a Spanish mercenary and veteran of Spain’s many wars on the continent. It’s set during the Spanish Golden Age – which I confess is a period I know next to nothing about – but which I’m learning a lot about as the series progresses. The book is basically a continuation of the first novel and deals with Alatriste’s enemies striking back at him after the Adventure of Two Englishmen – in which Alatriste and his ward (and narrator of the novels) Inigo – foil an attempt to assassinate the Prince of Wales (the future Charles II – our very own Merry Monarch).

Alatriste and his motley band, which includes the poet Francisco de Quevedo and young Inigo, are lured into an ambush during a scheme to rescue a young nun from the clutches of a libidinous cleric and Inigo himself is captured and given up to the tender minstrations of the Spanish Inquisition. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition right? It turns out it was a set up from the start, and the nun and her family are accused of having Jewish blood, a big no-no in Golden Age Spain apparently, ‘Purity of Blood’ was a big issue. Inigo himself is accused of having Jewish blood, and is set to be a starring member in an auto-de-fe arranged by the evil Luiz de Alquezar in an effort to get back at Alatriste, the Count-Duke of Olivares (the King’s favourite) and just about anybody else who happens to be on  his bad side.

Things are looking bad for Inigo, as the day of his trial arrives and he finds himself in a crowd of prisoners many of whom are marked down for a good old burning. Sadly most of these are Jewish people, including the young nun herself. Fortunately (for Inigo at least) help arrives in the form of Quevedo, who had rushed off on a mission of mercy after being tipped off by Olivares about a certain green book in the parish church of Luiz de Alquezar’s home town, which it turns out contained records of Alquezar’s lineage, and his own less than pure blood. Needless to say this information spares young Inigo the indignation of a trial. Though the nun herself burns. Not a great victory for the Captain, who found himself powerless against the might of the Inquisition.

An enjoyable book for sure, though Quevedo’s appearance just before Inigo’s trial comes across as something of a deus ex machina. Even so it doesn’t feel out of place in a book such as this – which is more akin to a Dumas classic than a modern novel. I’d recommend the Alatriste books to anybody with an interest in swashbuckling tales. Reverte is great at bringing Golden Age Spain to life, warts and all. And while The Fencing Master remains my favourite Reverte novel to date. I’d give this a good four stars!


~ by metafur on February 23, 2011.

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