The Cavalier in the Yellow Doublet:Arturo Perez-Reverte
G.P Putnam’s Sons, 2003
When your action novel hero is a battle-hardened soldier, death alone is not enough of a threat to the character. The writer’s challenge is to find something more serious, a bigger loss to the hero than just his or her life. For Diego Alatriste of Reverte’s Captain Alatriste series, it’s the notion of honor, and Alatriste’s honor and reputation are on the line in this adventure.
Of the four Alatriste books I have read, this seems the most like the Dumas adventures that Reverte loves so much. Alatriste and Inigo, his ward and the narrator of the books, have friends in high and low places, but Alatriste’s dalliance with an actress suddenly threatens his high-placed friendships. Alatriste soon discovers that there is more involved than just a rivalry for the actress’s affections. Inigo, meanwhile, is drawn further into intrigue by the beautiful she-devil Angelica, niece to one of Alatriste’s most powerful enemies at court. Inigo’s constant, plaintive refrain that he knows he can’t trust her but “I was in love,” reminds us that even though he is also a veteran of siege and battle, he is a sixteen-year-old boy in love for the first time.
Reverte has cleverly chosen to have Inigo, as an old man, reminiscing about this time in his life, so he can use the first-person point of view most of the time, but still slip into third person and share information Inigo could not have known as events were happening. This is a bit gimmicky but works smoothly here, especially in the last third of the book when the action heats up. Like other Alatriste books, it is a bit leisurely at the beginning, but Reverte’s descriptions of Madrid, and insights, in Inigo’s voice, about Spain at the time make the book interesting. Alatriste has surrounded himself with poets and playwrights, and bits of verse and witty observations about the human condition fill all of the books; this one is no exception.
At the end of this book one of Alatriste’s adversaries has been bested, but the Captain’s powerful enemies will be even more cautious and deceptive now. The last few lines of the book are priceless.
This was an enjoyable read and does the series justice.