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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Series of Stories Without a Story
I will have to admit up front that Arturo Perez-Reverte is one of my favorite authors. Years back, I discovered him accidentally by looking for a novel by mystery write Anne Perry - and Perez-Reverte was right next door. The novel I picked up was "The Flanders Panel." I bought it and read it, and returned to the bookstore to find everything else I could by the author...
Published on October 22, 2010 by Glynn Young

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3.0 out of 5 stars Pirates of the Levant: A Novel (Captain Altriste)
I read this for a book club and didn't read the previous books so I didn't have the character background that might have brought more depth to the plot. It is not my kind of book. I have to admit there were some interesting parts and clever writing, but it didn't inspire me to read the other books in the series.
Published 1 month ago by Barbara Mc


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Series of Stories Without a Story, October 22, 2010
I will have to admit up front that Arturo Perez-Reverte is one of my favorite authors. Years back, I discovered him accidentally by looking for a novel by mystery write Anne Perry - and Perez-Reverte was right next door. The novel I picked up was "The Flanders Panel." I bought it and read it, and returned to the bookstore to find everything else I could by the author. Then I went to Amazon to find whatever the bookstore didn't have.

Then Perez-Reverte began a series about Captain Diego Alatriste and his sidekick, young Inigo Balboa (who is also writing the tales as an old man long after the events). The books are set in 17th century Spain, and they are full of swordfights and romance and palace intrigue and suspense and loads of history about the period.

"Pirates of the Levant" is the sixth of Perez-Reverte's Alatriste novels. And it is decidedly different from its predecessors, in that there is no overarching story that frames all of the events and actions. (In "The Cavalier in the Yellow Doublet," for example, the main story is the rivalry between Alatriste and the king of Spain for the attention of the same actress; it tells you a lot about Alatriste that he knows you don't compete with the king of Spain but stays involved anyway.)

Instead, what Arturo-Perez does in "Pirates" is to draw a series of stories about Spanish ships patrolling the Mediterranean, fighting pirates and Moors. Alatriste and Balboa are aboard one such galley, and the reader experiences the seagoing life (including that of the galley slaves who man the oars) with the prodigious research the author brings to the each book. The story culminates in a sea battle that looks impossible to win, or even survive.

The point here is what constituted military life at sea during the period. Far from the court intrigues of Madrid, Alatriste and Balboa move from one battle to another, one encounter to another, punctuated by the occasional serious conflict but mostly experiencing a kind of sameness, like life upon the sea is often depicted.

"Pirates of the Levant" is still a good story; it is a different kind of story than Perez-Reverte has told before. But it does have all of the richness and historical detail one expects from his fine and entertaining novels.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Alatriste in the Mediterranean, September 24, 2010
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Pirates of the Levant is another enjoyable book in the Alatriste series. Unlike most of the 5 other books, this one mainly takes place on the sea, as Captain Alatriste and Inigo Balboa take on a variety of pirates and other enemies while cruising through the Mediterranean sea and its ports. Finally ending, with the main battle of the story, against a group of Turkish ships.

Alatriste gives a solid historical look at Spain's history against the Moors and their fights with Muslims. While the main characters fight many Muslims in this book, Perez-Reverte makes clear that Alatriste and his group have just as much disdain for the English and other "heretics".

My main quibble with the book is that throughout it, Alatriste and his cohorts get themselves into situations that inevitably end in a battle. Perez-Reverte spends a chapter or two leading up to the battle or fight and then it ends with almost nothing devoted to the actual battle/fight. This seems to be getting more common in this series so maybe I should just get over it. Perez-Reverte gets away with it by beautifully showing the world of a 17th century soldier, how they lived, survived, and died. How accurate he paints that world I cannot say.

There is no real plot to the book. As opportunities arise they make a move. Also, maybe I just noticed it more but it seems a bit bloodier and more graphic than the other Alatriste novels and both main characters and their friends seem a bit more cold blooded to their enemies and the innocent. Perez-Reverte has Inigo try to explain the amount of violence as almost necessary but I wasn't buying that explanation.

Still I really enjoyed the book. Inigo Balboa is growing into a man and starting to push the boundaries with the person that has raised him throughout the series. The urge to be your own man and do what you want while balancing wanting to follow a strong male role model who has kept you safe is at the heart of this novel. Inigo wants to be respected and is slowly tiring of always having to be deferential to his former master.

The book has a quick and easy pace to it and it is what it is. A fun historical fiction book with plenty of action, scenery, and adventure. I have seen some mention that this is the last in the series and while Perez-Reverte hasn't written anymore (there is a few years delay between original publishing and the English translation) I have also read there are plans for 3 more books in the series. I can't imagine this would be the end for Captain Alatriste and Inigo Balboa.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Favorite, February 27, 2011
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TheEngineer (San Francisco, California United States) - See all my reviews
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Classic Alatriste with excellent writing, poetry and a sweet nostalgia that you can almost feel on each page. This is my favorite in the series. In all the other novels, there is a clear plot and the pacing reminds you of reading an Alexander Dumas novel. Brisk, adventure and camaraderie.

In this novel, very little remains of the naivete of youth. The truth of life and its loneliness is more apparent. There is not a clear grand mission but the true variety, chance and mundane existence of life. I promise you you will come to love this as time passes.

I thank Arturo Perez-Reverte for this joy he has given us all. He is a former war correspondent and at times you can peak beneath the surface and glimpse the absurdity and hopelessness of life that he depicts. But as Alatriste says "A man must be true to one thing". For him it is his code of honor which includes a fealty to his king. We should ask ourselves in these modern times "What is the one thing you are true to?" And you cannot say yourself for that does no one else any good. That is what this novel asks me. Is Igno true to his love, Angelica? Are you true to your love? Alatriste and Igno exhaust their savings on redeeming a comrade. Would you? The Moor follows them and dies in a strange land and for a strange flag. Would you sacrifice all to a cause that is not even your own?

I love this book for the questions it asks in a very subtle way. These questions and the answers will haunt me for far longer than memory of this novel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Headless Hawks at War, October 27, 2010
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Pirates of the Levant is both very good fun and heartbreaking. Tells in amazingly vivid detail the sordid and pathetic Mediterranean confrontation between two failing powers: the Levant ("The Turks" in retreat from Europe) and Spain (losing ground everywhere. Alatriste and Inigo, as professional Navy/Marines confront and battle the Pirates -- or are they all sort of pirates? There is no guidance from either "King" -- but old miltary pride, and prejudice, continue to inspire/restrict men on each side. Life in a Galley is starkly pictured; the confusion of authority, the swiftness of punishment; the chaos resulting from heavily armed, hard-trained long-time enemies with neither goals nor guidance is heartbreaking -- but NEVER sentimental. Maybe a pointless conflict between Hawks/Eagles with their Heads Cut Off...?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent historical novel, March 7, 2013
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I have enjoyed all of Perez-Revertes novels, especially the Cpt. Altriste series. These novels are an excellent and readable history of 16th and early 17th century Spain.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Religious and Ethnic Mediterranean Hatred and Bloodshed in 1627, September 20, 2010
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"Pirates of the Levant" is another well-written, thought-provoking, fictional historical bashing of 1600s Spain by one of the great modern-day authors, Arturo Perez-Reverte. There is a plenitude of thrilling sea battles, lots of vicious 1-1 combat action (missing in some recent Alatriste novels), and enough death and misery for a lifetime. This book seems more reminiscent of "The Sun Over Breda" than any of the more recent Captain Alatriste books. This book, as usual, is narrated by Inigo Balboa, Alatriste's young side-kick, with whom he has a substitute father relationship, since Inigo's own father was killed in battle some years prior. In an insightful passage (Chapter 8: The Chorrillo Inn), Alatriste and young Balboa have a classic power-play-father-son falling out, a true-to-life predictable rite of passage for a teen (and his father). The breach only cements their long-term close relationship.

That said, there are 3 areas for criticism. 1. This book is not really a novel. Rather it's a series of quite excellent short stories held together by history, geography and information about the ever-present decline of Spain's influence over the then known world. Gluing it all together are Perez-Reverte's lectures (by way of Inigo) on world history of the era. What is lacking (thus denying "Pirates" of true novel status) is a coherent, unified and plausible plot structure. True, the characters are sharply individualized and believable; true, there is a pervasive illusion of reality; and true, there is great artistic merit. But, alas, the key requirement for a novel (a plot that moves the story from front to back in a unified way) is absent. 2. The "Pirates" in question are indeed good old beloved Captain Diego Alatriste, now 47 and 17-year old Inigo Balboa. They are aided and abetted by their numerous pirating colleagues in battle after battle, episode after episode, and bloody encounter after bloody encounter. There is plenty of blood to go around. The 2 heroes are -- while heroic -- hardly the stuff of admiration. 3. Inigo, the narrator, weakly justifies all this very fashionable 1600s bloodshed, mutilation, cruelty, slavery, pillage and violence done by Spain and others on all enemies to maintain domination, as simply what one does for "honor," flag and God (the same justification used by all villains and hegemonists throughout history). Thus our Spanish "heroes" reveal themselves to be little -- if any -- better than any ordinary ruffian, criminal or riff-raff of the day, and certainly no better than any of their contemporary adversaries, despite their apparent intellectual superiority. And perhaps that is exactly the outcome that Arturo Perez-Reverte desires.

In short, the book is a lesson in history, geography, sociology, foreign policy and racial/ethnic hatred existing in the still primitive world of the early 1600s in the Mediterranean.It's also, in certain parts, an excellent historical action thriller in the swashbuckling style.

As usual, you will increase your vocabulary by 20 or 30 new words and phrases. And, as usual, you will think about your own values and positions on various matters, such as the value of life.

Thus, in sum, while I certainly enjoyed the scathing slap at Spain and the Church, and I loved the gruesome combat scenes, I believe that the author failed to persuade me that he actually wrote a novel about the authenticity of Spanish philosophy that one must simply "do" whatever is required to be done (such as killing everyone in sight) for the glory of honor, flag, country and church. Nonetheless, for the imagination and the skillful writing of one of my all time favorite authors (who could dislike "The Queen of the South?"), I believe it's a 4+, rounded down to a 4.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Anyone who wants blood-soaked action and raw defiance against impossible odds should sign on, and quickly., September 27, 2010
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Bookreporter (New York, New York) - See all my reviews
The previous Captain Alatriste novel (or the last one to be translated and released in the US) was titled THE CAVALIER IN THE YELLOW DOUBLET, and there you have it. "Cavalier" is one of those loaded words; it carries with it connotations of chivalry and swordplay and courtly love and roistering in the streets --- and all of that was in there and more. This book is called PIRATES OF THE LEVANT, and if ever there was a loaded word, it is "pirates." Shiver me timbers, lads, and point me to the buried treasure. Arrr.

Well, these aren't those kind of pirates, you understand, and although Captain Alatriste is a soldier of fortune --- and to make the pop culture reference, he would make a very fine Dread Pirate Roberts --- he emphatically is not a pirate. The pirates are the enemies here, and fine stout foes they are, and it is Alatriste's job to rob them of their plunder and make the waters of the wine-dark Mediterranean safe for the commerce of Spain and her allies.

Where PIRATES OF THE LEVANT differs from the rum-soaked tales of Caribbean piracy largely has to do with the types of ships that are used. The buccaneer ships were sailing ships, for the most part, depending on wind power and seamanship for propulsion. In the Mediterranean, though, the galley was used, and galleys are powered by sweaty, smelly slaves chained to their benches and straining their backs to haul the oars. It is this sort of ship that Alatriste and his ward Diego are assigned to, operating out of Naples, patrolling the seas to stop the pirate menace, whether it be English, Dutch, or the dreaded Moors. Dreaded, you see, because the wages of defeat to a Moorish vessel were no wages at all --- the losers of any given battle ended up pulling oars for the victors.

The typical pacing that Arturo Perez-Reverte employs is used here, with long sections of exposition and poetic quotation punctuated by violent and colorful swordfights. But in PIRATES OF THE LEVANT, he expands his repertoire to include the naval battle, and aficionados of the genre should fall upon his work gratefully. An early cutting-out expedition against an English pirate stronghold is almost as good as anything Patrick O'Brian could do, and you can't say fairer than that.

The other welcome development in PIRATES OF THE LEVANT is the change of scenery --- well, perhaps not that so much as the characters who inhabit Alatriste's Madrid do not come along, or only make cameo appearances. We are left instead to concentrate on Alatriste, who is essentially unchanged, and the narrator, young Diego, who is maturing, getting into trouble, and starting to chafe a bit under Alatriste's leadership. Diego is somewhat problematic as a narrator. He's overly florid at times, a bit too fond of quoting classical Spanish poetry at every conceivable occasion, and it just doesn't seem possible that he could know so much about Alatriste's mind in those scenes where he himself does not appear. But Diego as a character is a charming, engaging puppy, and Perez-Reverte lets him grow up a little and bark some.

PIRATES OF THE LEVANT does wander about the Mediterranean a little bit and stays too often in some uninteresting locales exploring subplots that at times don't go much of anywhere. But it ends with a battle combining seamanship and defiance and sacrifice and no quarter given and no quarter taken. Doomed Spaniards fight renegade janissaries on wrecked galleys, as harquebusiers flare and steel glints against steel. Arrr. It's a pirate's life, fellow readers, a pirate's life for me. Anyone who wants blood-soaked action and raw defiance against impossible odds should sign on, and quickly.

--- Reviewed by Curtis Edmonds
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, July 6, 2014
not his best, but entertaing
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3.0 out of 5 stars Pirates of the Levant: A Novel (Captain Altriste), May 29, 2014
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I read this for a book club and didn't read the previous books so I didn't have the character background that might have brought more depth to the plot. It is not my kind of book. I have to admit there were some interesting parts and clever writing, but it didn't inspire me to read the other books in the series.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The other front, October 8, 2013
This is the sixth book in the series of Captain Alatriste, the "Spanish Musketeer" and his former servant, now his fellow-soldier Inigo Balboa. The action takes place in the Mediterranean this time, allowing Arturo Perez-Reverte to continue his tour of the Spanish Superpower's Empire.

This time, we go to North Africa first, and to Ceuta and Oran in particular. Again, the theme of despair is present, as the garrisons of the two outposts are more or less left to their own devices, hardly paid and surrounded by hostile populations, and if the populations were not hostile to begin with, they quickly become so as the unpaid garrisons' soldiers raid them rather indiscriminately, and with little provocation.

Then, with the galley on which they are serving, they reach Malta, having managed to extract two of Alatriste's friends - an old one and a new one - but I will say no more about them to avoid spoilers. Here again, you get treated to a tour of La Valette, both the old city which survived the siege, and the new one build just after and even more formidable. Our heroes, of course, get into a rather nasty fight against a bunch of Venetians. This is unsurprising given that throughout the period Venice's attitude towards the Turks was rather ambiguous, and Spain was its big rival in the Mediterranean. Venice was ready to go quite far in its efforts to preserve its maritime possessions in the Mediterranean (and Crete, in particular) and its trading relationships with the East. If this meant a policy of appeasement towards the Great Turk, then so be it.

You also get glimpses of the fearless Knights of Malta (or of some of them, at least) and of Naples, the main Spanish base where our heroes finally arrive, and its Spanish garrison (and whole Tercio was stationed there. Then our heroes take part in yet another raising expedition against the Turks with a rather superb (and suitably gory and desperate, as per usual!) naval battle between the two squadrons.

As usual, the author's talent for setting the characters into a well-drawn and accurate historical context is first-class. All across the Mediterranean, and for decades after the battle of Lepanto, the sea warfare went on, yet this second front is generally much less well known than the also interminable war in Flanders against the Dutch (and their numerous and varied supporters, including the English, of course).

As usual also, the story is liberally sprinkled with quotations from the Spanish literature of the time, with Cervantes taking, rather unsurprisingly, the pole position since he had himself on the King's galleys and taken part in the battle of Lepanto. Life at sea on these galleys is also depicted with Reverte's usual vividness, with living conditions being rather awful.

So, in addition to the usual swashbuckling story, you also get all of this. A free tour to visit some of the Spanish superpower's dominions the Mediterranean, and a taste of what it meant to be one of the soldiers embarked on a Spanish galley fighting for the Faith, King and country against the Ottomans. This was a rather superb treat which was still worth five stars for me.
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Pirates of the Levant: A Novel (Captain Altriste)
Pirates of the Levant: A Novel (Captain Altriste) by Arturo Perez-Reverte (Paperback - July 26, 2011)
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