The Fencing Master

The Fencing Master

4.0 19
by Arturo Pérez-Reverte

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"A delightful period whodunit."—USA Today

I n Madrid in 1 8 6 8 , fencing master and man of honor Don Jaime is approached by a mysterious woman who seeks to learn the secret of the unstoppable thrust, an arcane technique known only to him. All too soon he finds himself in the vortex of a plot that includes seduction, secret political documents, and

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"A delightful period whodunit."—USA Today

I n Madrid in 1 8 6 8 , fencing master and man of honor Don Jaime is approached by a mysterious woman who seeks to learn the secret of the unstoppable thrust, an arcane technique known only to him. All too soon he finds himself in the vortex of a plot that includes seduction, secret political documents, and more than one murder. Rich with the historical detail of a decaying world that agonizes-as does the world of fencing itself-over the ideals of honor and chivalry, The Fencing Master is superb literature and a true page-turner.

"Extraordinary . . .The brilliant, final fencing match is pure poetry."-The Denver Post

Internationally acclaimed author Pérez-Reverte was born in 1951 in Spain, where he lives. His bestselling books have been translated into nineteen languages in thirty countries and have sold millions of copies.

Editorial Reviews

Dick Adler
Even if your interest in fencing is minimal, you should be quickly sucked in by the character of Don Jaime Astarloa, a distinguished buy slightly down-at-the-heels fencing master in his late 50's, struggling to stay afloat in Madrid in 1899...Don Jaime is the perfect hero for this story of an old world about to de destroyed; when someone compares him to Don Quixote, he retorts, "The man from La Mancha wanted to right wrongs; all I want is to be left in peace." — Chicago Tribune
Jane Bussey
Perez-Reverte likes his heroes strong, his plots complex, even almost literary, and his women a little dangerous. Perez-Reverte's trick of creating a hero with the flaws of Astraloa might have been too much in a novel written in the United States. But part of the fun of Perez- Reverte's books is that the reader does not immediately identify with the heroes. They are built outside of stereotype. Here is the true art. Perez-Reverte leads us through this intellectual thriller with the rhythm of a fencing match: thrust, parry, feint; thrust, parry feint. We follow the ploys spectators able to spot the mistakes, the opportunities for the opponent, the fatal errors. Any by the end, we care about the honorable fencing master, a dying breed, the hero described at one point as the "only honest person I know. —Miami Herald
Walter Satterthwait
The boundaries of the crime novel are largely imaginary, and good writers don't so much transcend them as ignore them. Arturo Perez-Reverte, a Spanish newspaper columnist and former television journalist whose previous books include "The Flanders Panel", "The Club Dumas" and "The Seville Communion," is one such writer...Yet Perez-Reverte is a writer who knows how to keep readers turning the pages. He has a deft way with a sward fight, and there are duels here as swashbuckling as anything in "The Mask of Zorro." There are enigmatic messages in the night; there are violent confrontations; there are hired thugs. And after the final, most horrific revelations, there is a dramatic surprise of an ending.
The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's 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.
Library Journal
Chess, antiquarian books, the Catholic Church--all have figured in P rez-Reverte's richly entertaining mysteries. Now he's picked another intricate and demanding subject, fencing. There's political unrest in 1868 Madrid, but Don Jaime goes about his business as fencing master while trying to conceive of the perfect thrust. When the beautiful and mysterious Adela de Otero approaches him, asking for lessons, he at first refuses indignantly but soon discovers that she is relentless--and already a magnificent swordswoman. It's not long before Don Jaime is in love with Adela, but shortly thereafter she is taken over by one of his aristocratic clients, Luis de Ayala. And then de Ayala is found dead, killed by the merciless two-hundred-escudo thrust that Don Jaime himself has invented and taught to just a few people--including Adela. What follows is a fine tale of political intrigue with a lot of fencing lore deftly mixed in. Figuring out the political mess behind the killer's motivations might take a reread, but this will delight anyone who enjoys swashbucklers--though as one might expect, the book is more literate than any Hollywood film. For all mystery collections.--Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Kirkus Reviews
Another colorful novel of intrigue from accomplished Spanish author Pérez-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 Pérez-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 (Cárceles) 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 Café Progreso). A climacticsurprise meeting concludes with the master's serendipitous performance of that "perfect thrust"—at a decidedly opportune moment. Not quite equal to Pérez-Reverte's very best, though it succeeds admirably both as a vivid picture of an unfamiliar culture and as high, sophisticated entertainment. (First printing of 100,000; $100,000 ad/promo; author tour)

From the Publisher

"The master of the intellectual thriller is not an American or British writer, but Spaniard Arturo Perez-Reverte, one of the most creative and devilishly complex authors of the '90s."—San Francisco Examiner

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Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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5.36(w) x 10.86(h) x 0.64(d)

Meet the Author

ARTURO PEREZ-REVERTE is the author of many critically acclaimed novels, including The Club Dumas, The Flanders Panel, and the Captain Alatriste series. A retired war journalist, he lives in Madrid and is a member of the Royal Spanish Academy.

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