I read this book about 15-Oct-2008. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 2004. This note was last modified Saturday, 08-Nov-2008 09:09:15 PST.
This note contains spoilers for the book.
A historical novel set in the decline of the Spanish empire, from a modern Spanish author. Apparently this sold a million copies in Spain, before the American release. Perez-Reverte deserves the name "international bestseller" far more than many to whom it is applied.
A former soldier, "Captain" Alatriste never held that rank officially or even unofficially in the army. He's now working essentially as a hired thug; he does bodyguard work, duels professionally, and at the start of this book is hired to attack and maybe kill two Englishmen.
His employers are a confusing group of masked people who don't all agree. High church officials and the Inquisition are present.
When he and the Italian also hired meet the men, Alatriste decides at the last second not to kill them. What pushes him over the edge is that one of them is pleading for the life of the other one rather than for his own.
So he takes them to a nobleman he knows, with political connections, and it turns out they're the Marquis (soon to be Duke) of Buckingham, and the young heir to the British throne, come incognito to push his suit for the Infanta despite differences in religion.
This is nothing like modern Dumas, exactly. It doesn't try for the period flavor in the prose, just in the characters and situations.
I'd found his books with modern settings good, but not really absorbing. Probably because they're set in modern Spain, and written for an audience more familiar with it than I am (although he might be making some effort to include information necessary for international readers, since he has had a lot of them for some time now). These, with the historical setting, don't have that problem; as I had hoped.
I believe I will read some more of this series.