Arturo Perez-Reverte, The Fencing Master


Arturo Perez-Reverte is a superb story-teller and is famous for his novels of intrigue (similar to Dan Brown) such as The Dumas Club and for colourful and emotionally charged novels of good and evil in a Spain where all is to be fought for. This the rare signed limited edition.

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Johnny Depp in the film based on “The Dumas Club”

Arturo Perez-Reverte was a war reporter and journalist with one of Spain’s leading newspapers. He aspired to write entertaining novels that have an historical context – often with insight and compassion for the the values and destiny of Spain. The early books that appeared in English translation such as The Flanders Panel (1990), The Dumas Club (1993) display his rare gift for displaying and exploiting to the full the range of mystery, suspense and action. These first editions quickly became sought after by collectors and established the author as a must-have with lovers of mysteries with a depth of culture. His subsequent books are historical adventures with the swordsman Alatriste or standalone thrillers as a the female drug baron The Queen of the South (2003).

The Fencing Master is Perez-Reverte’s second novel but was not published in English until 1999. It is a tale possessed of Perez-Reverte’s typically meticulous attention to detail, and some might argue that it is the blueprint of the Alatriste novels, particularly when it touches upon the main character’s (Jaime Astarloa) archaic sense of honour and the friends that he meet in the tavern. However, it a novel which joints history, suspense, romance and adventure with its gallery of distinctly original characters. It posits an ageing fencing master that is taunted by a cad and villain who likes word-play as well as crossing swords; enter a vivacious swordswoman who begs Don Jaime to train her. The finale to the story is explosive.

This book was issued in an edition of 110 numbered and signed copies in a special binding in 1999 with an appreciation by Diamond Dagger winning author Andrew Taylor.

4.67 out of 5

3 reviews for Arturo Perez-Reverte, The Fencing Master

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rating by Mostly Fiction review on April 9, 2012 :

    “Don Jaime Astarloa is “The Fencing Master” in this marvelous novel by Arturo Perez-Reverte, translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa. The year is 1868. Don Jaime lives in Spain and makes a modest living teaching fencing to young men of means. He also meets regularly with a rakish aristocrat, Luis de Ayala, a wealthy womanizer and gambler who enjoys parrying with words as well as swords. The fifty-six year old Don Jaime has been working for years on what he hopes will be the ultimate treatise on fencing, one that will surpass all others that preceded it.

    This is a time of political upheaval in Spain. Queen Isabel II is on the throne, but those who vehemently oppose the monarchy are threatening to force her into exile. Although Don Jaime is oblivious to current events, he frequents a cafe where his acquaintances argue about politics for hours at a time. The fencing master is prepared to live the rest of his life following his predictable routine, when a beautiful young woman named Adela de Otero summons him to her home. Although she is already an accomplished fencer, Adela implores Don Jaime to become her teacher. Against his better judgment, he takes her on as his pupil, and he soon falls under her spell.

    The Fencing Master is a marvel of elegant writing, and the character of Don Jaime is mesmerizing. He is an anachronism, a man who was born too late. He dresses in clothes that went out of style two decades ago, and he stubbornly holds on to his memories and to his old-fashioned code of honor. He also fences in a classical style that few people value anymore. In addition, Don Jaime is naive in the ways of the world, and he is quite unprepared for the sudden intrigue and danger that disrupt his peaceful existence. However, when the fencing master holds a foil in his hand, the years disappear, and Don Jaime becomes a formidable combatant who is the equal of any other fencer on earth.

    All of the characters in this novel are intriguing, from the bewitching and mysterious Adela to the dissipated Luis de Ayala, and Perez-Reverte captures the tension of a country whose government is under siege. The fencing scenes are standouts. The author brings the reader into the gallery as the opponents thrust and parry, and there is a deliciously erotic quality about these descriptive passages. The denouement of this book is outstanding, as Don Jaime must rely on all of his emotional and physical resources to oppose the forces of evil that are closing in on him. The Fencing Master is a tour de force that left me breathless with admiration”. Mostly Fiction Book Review website

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rating by “Kirkus Reviews” on April 9, 2012 :

    “Another colorful novel of intrigue from accomplished Spanish author Perez-Reverte (The Seville Communion, 1998, etc.). The setting is Madrid in 1868: a time of political unrest as self-indulgent Queen Isabelle II’s hold on the throne grows shaky and numerous anti-royalist and revolutionary groups jostle for advantage. At the same time, tradition reposes serenely in the virtually cloistered life of the suave Don Jaime Astarloa, an aging “fencing master” who supports himself by teaching his art to Madrid’s nobility while planning his treatise on “the unstoppable thrust”—to be written as soon as he develops and masters this ultimate skill. A cryptic prefatory flash-forward is followed by some rather turgid (flatly translated?) exposition before Perez-Reverte efficiently places Don Jaime at the center of an exfoliating chain of intrigue whose individual developments are keyed to fencing moves and terms (“The Short Lunge,” “Glissade,” etc.). A beautiful young woman, Adela de Otero, persuades the initially reluctant master to tutor her and proves surprisingly worthy – in crisp, witty scenes charged with erotic tension. A marquis to whom Don Jaime introduces her is murdered under circumstances that point to Adela (who has inconveniently vanished); and a mutilated corpse that appears to be hers is dredged up from a river. A Javert-like police chief (Campillo) and a luckless journalist (Carceles) become involved, and signs both of a plot against the throne and of a murderous double agent deepen Don Jaime’s panic and confusion (amusingly counterpointed by the “eternal polemics” exchanged among his cronies at the ironically named Cafe Progreso). A climactic surprise meeting concludes with the master’s serendipitous performance of that “perfect thrust”—at a decidedly opportune moment. Not quite equal to PÇrez-Reverte’s very best, though it succeeds admirably both as a vivid picture of an unfamiliar culture and as high, sophisticated entertainment”. Kirkus Reviews

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rating by Andrew Taylor on May 18, 2012 :

    Extract from the Appreciation by Andrew Taylor

    “The novels of Arturo Perez-Reverte inhabit the shadowy area between literary fiction and the crime story. They tease the intellect and stretch the emotions. They skilfully manipulate – and often subvert – the techniques of the genre entertainment; Graham Greene and Patricia Highsmith would have relished them. The work of Perez-Reverte, like that of these literary forebears, shows the idiocy of facile critical categorisation. Behind the present-day settings of most of his books stretches the long hinterland of the past, which gives his work an additional attraction – particularly for English-speaking readers accustomed to the Anglo-American conventions of crime fiction. Perez-Reverte constantly reminds us that Western Europe has a richly varied culture of its own, essentially catholic in both senses of the word. In France, The Flanders Panel won the Grand Prix Annuel de Littârature PoliciSre. Julia, a young picture restorer in Madrid, is commissioned to clean a fifteenth-century Flemish masterpiece, The Game of Chess. Two noblemen are playing, and in the background of the painting is a seated lady reading a book. Concealed under a layer of paint are the words “Who killed the knight?” Can the game reveal clues to a five-hundred-year-old murder mystery? Julia consults her former lover, an art historian, who is soon found dead in suspicious circumstances. She receives a series of messages apparently showing moves that continue the game. Munoz, a seedy but brilliant chess player, interprets their significance, and develops the game. The white queen is under threat. Gradually Julia realises that she herself is the white queen. Can she and Munoz unmask the ghostly player before he finds a way to murder her? The Dumas Club also has a startling premise and shows a similar blend of erudition and wit. What is the connection between a manuscript chapter from The Three Musketeers, possibly in Dumas’s own hand, and a seventeenth-century manual for raising the devil? Only three copies of the manual have survived the attentions of the Inquisition. Lucas Corso, “a mercenary of the book world”, is hired to track down the copies and subject them to minute bibliographic analysis – and also, while he is at it, to discover the provenance of the Dumas chapter. Soon the two quests intersect. Worse, life imitates art when the characters and the plot of The Three Musketeers infiltrate Corso’s own life and lead to violence. And what if it really is possible to raise the devil? The result is a densely allusive novel which raises questions that crime novels do not usually address, and which has become something of a cult classic”

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