Sunday, January 7, 2007
Purity of the Blood (1997) Arturo Perez-Reverte
Translated by Margaret Sayers Peden
Purity of the Blood is the second Captain Alatriste book. Inigo continues the story of Captain Alatriste, who remains in Madrid, still talking of returning to war, but still looking after Inigo, and still taking commissions to make ends meet. This time he is asked by a father to help rescue a daughter trapped in a nunnery, where the priest takes advantage of the innocence of the girls within.
After the previous books I have read by Arturo Perez-Reverte. I found this one somewhat disappointing. The story didn’t seem to flow as well as previous stories, and much of the book seemed to be a history of the Spanish Inquisition as the tale of Inigo and Captain Alatriste. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy history, but I was already familiar with many of the details we learn in the story–perhaps I was waiting to read something I didn’t already know, and since everything I read was familiar, it made the history lesson less interesting.
However, for those who are not familiar with the Spanish Inquisition, this book may present an interesting history lesson. It discusses in detail how the Conversos–Jews who had been forced to convert to Christianity upon threat of death–were treated in Catholic Spain. And how no matter how pious these Conversos were, they were never quite good enough–the lacked the purity of the blood, with their Jewish heritage and roots.
It also shows the power that the Catholic church had in Spain during this time–the power that the Catholic Church gained through the Inquisition.
Beside this history lesson, the story of how Inigo and Captain Alatriste attempt to rescue a young woman–a Converso who has entered a nunnery–seems quite brief. It’s as if he wrote a story around a history lesson about the Inquisition. Without the history lesson, the story would have been far shorter.
There was, however, some swashbuckling adventure, and I still enjoy the realism of the sword fights. It’s the little things he describes that I never considered before, such as how the swordsmen wrap their cloaks around their arms for protection, that makes the fight scenes so interesting. It makes you wonder what a real duel from that time would have looked like, and whether it bears any relation to anything we’ve ever seen in the movies or on TV.
If you read Captain Alatriste, then you’ll certainly want to read Purity of the Blood, however, if you have never before read any books by Arturo Perez-Reverte, I might suggest starting at another book, such as The Fencing Master (my personal favorite) or The Flanders Panel.