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The Fencing Master Paperback – Bargain Price, June 7, 2004

4 out of 5 stars 123 customer reviews

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Paperback, Bargain Price, June 7, 2004
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Amazon.com Review

In The Club Dumas, Arturo Pérez-Reverte explored the labyrinthine world of antiquarian book dealers, spicing his tale of mystery and murder with characters straight out of Paradise Lost and The Three Musketeers. Next came The Flanders Panel, a brilliant puzzle comprised of art, chess, and untimely death whose resolution lies in a painting by a Flemish master. In The Seville Communion, Pérez-Reverte turned his sights on the tangled politics of the Roman Catholic Church as an appropriate backdrop--for murder. In his fourth novel translated into English, the Spanish writer changes centuries (if not his focus on homicide), returning to the mid-1800s to follow the exploits of Don Jaime Astarloa, the eponymous fencing master.

The year is 1866 and revolution is brewing in Spain. The corrupt Bourbon queen, Isabella II, is slowly losing her grip on power as equally corrupt exiled politicians vie to be her successor in a new republic. Against this background of political upheaval, Don Jaime goes about his business, teaching a dying art to a dwindling number of students. This is a man who resists changing times; to a friend he explains, "I have spent my whole life trying to preserve a certain idea of myself, and that is all. You have to cling to a set of values that do not depreciate with time. Everything else is the fashion of the moment, fleeting, mutable. In a word, nonsense." But then Adela de Otero--a woman with a mysterious past and an amazing talent for swordplay--comes into his life, and Don Jaime's world is turned upside down. As always, Pérez-Reverte offers literary excellence, a thumping good mystery, and fascinating insight into an arcane practice, in this case, fencing. Though the 19th-century politics in the book may resonate more with a Spanish audience than with English readers, the moral at the heart of The Fencing Master is universal: "to be honest, or at least honorable--anything, indeed, that has its roots in the word honor." In this, Don Jaime and Arturo Pérez-Reverte both succeed. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Spain's bestselling novelist follows three polished and erudite thrillers (The Flanders Panel; The Club Dumas; The Seville Communion) with a fourth that combines the classic art of fencing, 19th-century Spanish monarchical politics and the eternal lure of the femme fatale. Don Jaime Astarloa, aging and solitary, is Madrid's greatest fencing master, eking out a threadbare living in this age of the pistol by teaching the sons of the nobility. In the hot summer of 1868, while rumors abound in Madrid of possible insurrection and the forced abdication of Queen Isabelle II, Don Jaime is visited by a beautiful young woman calling herself Adela de Otero, who offers him double his usual fee to teach her a secret, famously difficult sword thrust. At first Don Jaime refuses to consider a woman as a student; but with her intricate knowledge of fencing and the mysterious, tiny scar at the corner of her mouth, Adela wins him over and proves to be an expert fencer, gifted, disciplined and determined. Soon she is winning Don Jaime's heart as well. Thus is set into motion a complex succession of plots and counterplots analogous to the thrust and parry of a fencing match. P?rez-Reverte is a master of lushly atmospheric suspense, and his prose is as spellbinding in the fencing gallery as it is in the arcane realm of honor and loyalty that shapes Don Jaime's world. The mysteries unravel to the final pages, as Don Jaime pursues his lifelong dream of discovering "the unstoppable thrust," not in politics, contemplation of his art or even romance, but on the floor of battle. 100,000 first printing; $100,000 ad/promo; author tour. (June) FYI: The Ninth Gate, the film of P?rez-Reverte's The Club Dumas, directed by Roman Polanski and starring Johnny Depp, will open in April.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harvest Books (June 7, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156029839
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156029834
  • ASIN: B002CMLR8I
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,250,196 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The Fencing master was a bit of a surprise, as it finds success more as a character study and exploration of personal ethics, unlike earlier novels Flanders Panel and Club Dumas, which were intricate and playful mysteries. Nontheless, this was a satisfying and enjoyable read. The book is built around a memorable figure, the fencing master, a Quixote like man of remarkable ethical consistency and dignity, but with a self awareness and sense of irony lacking in the man from La Mancha. Riverte also treats us to thrilling fencing sequences, political and moral intrigues of 19th century Spain, and a femme fatale to rival m'lady in the Three Musketeers. A worthy novel from one of the most interesting and intellectually diverse writers working.
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Format: Paperback
What a gem of a book! This is a splendidly original, elegantly written, period thriller that is near impossible to put down. The tale is set in 19th century Madrid, a time of political instability and intrigue, against the backdrop of rumored coup plots against the Spanish queen. Don Jaime Astarloa, a proud, aging, master fencer and teacher, practices his noble art which he sees slowly losing its place within aristocratic society. He is approached one day by a beautiful yet mysterious young woman who requests that he take her on as a student. Though reluctant at first to instruct a woman, Don Jaime soon discovers that she is a skilled fencer. The mystery surrounding her grows, however, when she abruptly discontinues her lessons after learning an arcane yet deadly technique that only a select few fencers can perform. Soon thereafter, a series of murders takes place that forces Don Jaime to question whom he can trust and whether he himself is safe.
The Fencing Master combines a gripping plot, elegant prose, and intense, powerful descriptions of fencing duels that may at times leave you breathless. Think of the grace and beauty in Hemingway's depiction of bullfighting in The Sun Also Rises, and you may have some sense of how masterfully Perez-Reverte has captured the essence of the art of fencing. With each turn of the page you will feel transported to a different time and place. The stylish prose and authoritative narrative voice fill this novel with an authentic period feel. And each sentence conveys an understated sense of strength, pride, honor, integrity, and passion that make this book and its hero simply unforgettable.
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Format: Paperback
Although this is the fourth of Pérez-Reverte's book to appear in English, it actually predates The Flanders Panel, The Club Dumas, and The Seville Communion. Originally published in 1988, this earlier book is an entirely historical thriller set in Madrid in 1868 amidst Spain's September Revolution, which apparently heralds the end of the monarchy as plots abound and the Bourbon Queen Isabella II is rapidly losing control and influence. One of the novel's flaws is that this period of turmoil is so chaotic and confusing that, although the reader knows the political machinations and plots will somehow prove integral, it's presented rather tediously and is hard to follow. On the whole, the prose is not nearly as rich and accomplished as in his other books.
The story follows an aging fencing instructor, Don Jamie, whose personal code of honor defines him as he attempts to live outside the "real" world around him. He is a rigid and exacting "maestro" to the few remaining pupils he has (guns have all but supplanted swords), and an amusingly old-fashioned expert to the wealthy nobleman he spars with every day. His only other human contact is with a group of yammering men who gather every day in a café to argue politics-and whose main function is to deliver the political background the reader requires to understand the rest of the story (although as indicated above, their arguments are not very effective in this).
Don Jamie is a portrait of a faded gentleman, with all his best experiences behind him, he almost revels in his self-constructed persona of a man of honor (and little else). When a beautiful woman comes to his door and demands instruction in the male-only art of fencing, it catapults him into a dark intrigue.
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By A Customer on April 23, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The antiquarian book trade, chess, art restoration, and an audacious hacker in the Pope's personal computer have all served as jumping-off points for Arturo Perez-Reverte's unusual intellectual thrillers. Earlier books by the Spanish journalist made the past part of the present, but with The Fencing Master, he enters the realm of historical suspense. Don Jaime Astarloa teaches fencing, a skill which is already quite outdated by the book's 1868 setting. He makes a modest living from a few dedicated clients, and plans on a quiet retirement in the near future. These plans take a turn when a beautiful young woman asks him to teach her the killing thrust for which he is known across Europe, and which he has taught to only a few favored pupils. Like many European writers, Perez-Reverte assumes a certain level of education among his readers. In this case, he stirs Don Jaime's dilemma in with the threatened overthrow of Queen Isabel, coffeehouse plotters and bigmouths, and the possible takeover of Madrid by revolutionaries. These unfamiliar historical events are handled with great clarity, as are the fencing terms and thrusts which are the fencing master's art. Perhaps because of the weight of the historical setting, The Fencing Master is a much less convoluted book than the earlier Seville Communion or The Club Dumas, with a less Dickensian cast of characters and fewer tricky twists and turns. This is a more character-driven book, but don't imagine you'll be disappointed-the ending is spectacular. (A film version of The Club Dumas is due to be released soon. It will be interesting to see what Hollywood makes out of a story that revolves around a manuscript by a 19th century writer of massive adventure stories!)
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