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by Arturo Perez-Reverte
G.P. Putnamís, December 2006
288 pages
ISBN: 0399153837

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Previous reviews of books by Arturo Perez Reverte on www.reviewingtheevidence.com were THE SEVILLE COMMUNION, THE NAUTICAL CHART, and THE FENCING MASTER. I enjoyed and highly recommended all three. THE SUN OVER BREDA is a different type of novel, but equally as much a thriller and as suspenseful as the others. It continues the story of the swashbuckling Captain Alatriste begun in CAPTAIN ALATRISTE and PURITY OF BLOOD, which I haven't read yet, but now certainly will. This time the action takes place in 1625 in Flanders at the siege of Breda by the Spanish and their allies.

It is apparently a struggle between the Spanish and Dutch forces, but is really more between Catholics and Protestants. The story is surprising because it gives us a chance to see the view from the other side, most narratives in English treating Catholic Spain with derision and scorn. Perez is Spanish born and bred, with an intensely strong sensual feeling about his native land, well-versed in the literature of his country as well as that of other European nations. He is apparently quite patriotic and he empathizes with the general feeling of his fellow Spaniards that history has dealt Spain some dirty blows.

The enemy soldiers are referred to as "the heretics," but Perez portrays the two sides as equally bloodthirsty. We see stomachs ripped open and the blood flow as the two sides engage in battles and individual encounters, and there are plenty of exposed guts strewn over the battlefield. There are personal animosities, wholesale mutinies, and commanders who would just as soon hang one of their own men as kill the enemy. In fact, one of our protagonists just barely misses getting hanged by his colonel for talking to him in a less than respectful tone.

Both Alatriste and his young battlefield servant Inigo, who is the narrator, are on a personal friendly letter-writing basis with leading contemporary real-life writers, poets, and artists, such as Calderon de la Barca, Francisco de Quevedo, Lope de Vega, and Diego Velasquez. These are people I studied when I took advanced Spanish classes at Georgetown University's School of Languages and Linguistics, along with a rich diet of Spain's history, including the country's Habsburg's rulers, such as Felipe IV, who was king during the period of this novel. At times, and especially toward the end of the book, the fictional and real-life characters are so intertwined that it is difficult to distinguish between the two types.

There are a number of other Captain Alatriste books written in Spanish, and to date two of them, named above, have been published in English translations: In some respects I find Perez-Reverte a Spanish version of the English Lawrence Durrell; especially in that both are so extremely well read. THE SUN OVER BREDA is not a mystery novel per se, but Perez-Reverte is such a great writer of mysteries that his many fans will want to add the contents of this book to the rest of the vast knowledge he has helped them obtain.

Reviewed by Eugene Aubrey Stratton, May 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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