Posts Tagged ‘historical’


The Fortunes of Captain Blood

September 23, 2015

I’ve always been kind of wary of Rafael Sabatini’s other Captain Blood books. There are two — Captain Blood Returns and The Fortunes of Captain Blood. I can’t really explain why. A lingering distrust of short stories, held over from middle school? The original novel being so complete and satisfying? Anyway, Monday I had the oppurtunity to go to the library for the first time in ages, and I read a copy of The Fortunes of Captain Blood so battered that it has to be kept in its own little box. It’s composed of six short stories taking place sometime during Peter Blood’s pirate career, and it’s kind of great. This brief review of the trilogy says this book isn’t very good, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s great–I enjoyed it a lot, and it just means that Captain Blood Returns will be even better.

The six episodes in the books seem to occur consecutively, but that’s clearer with the first few than with the rest. First we get a three story sequence that covers the capture (“The Dragon’s Jaw”), use (“The Pretender”) and disposal (“The Demonstration”) of a Spanish ship. Then the rescue of Hagthorpe’s brother (Hagthorpe is back, along with Pitt, Wolverstone, Ogle etc.) in “The Deliverance,” which dragged a little. Then “Sacrilege,” in which Peter is a Nice Irish Catholic Boy, and “The Eloping Hidalga,” which didn’t wallow in revenge to the extent that I wanted it to.

The earlier stories are definitely the better ones, and I think my favorite is “The Pretender,” which lets us see what Peter Blood would do if he had to defend against himself. “The Demonstration” gets an honorable mention for reintroducing Monsieur d’Ogeron, the Governer of Tortuga.

I realized as I was reading how silly of me it was to avoid this. Short story series about super competent characters getting the better of everyone around them are kind of my jam. Speaking of which, I’m going to go back to rereading Pollyooly until Yom Kippur is over and I get to eat again.


Evelina’s Garden

August 10, 2015

I don’t know how I feel about Evelina’s Garden, by Mary Wilkins Freeman. It feels so self-consciously quaint and historical, and no one has a personality.

There’s this girl, and she likes this guy, but she’s too shy or proud ot something to admit it, so she becomes a recluse whose only interest is her garden, and he reluctantly marries someone else but remains secretly devoted to Evelina.

Then along comes her niece, who looks just like her, and his son, who’s bettered himself enough to be a plausible partner for a woman from a slightly higher class, and despite neither of them having the faintest idea of how to interact with other humans, they become secretly engaged. Then Evelina the elder dies, leaving everything to her namesake–as long as she never marries and always takes good care of the garden. At which point Evelina the younger’s young man breaks off their engagement in a fit of misplaced nobility.

I guess I actually know exactly how I feel about Evelina’s Garden: I was a lot more concerned about the garden than I was about the fate of the lovers.


The Imprudence of Prue

January 23, 2015

The Imprudence of Prue is sort of proto-Georgette Heyer — all historical high society and everyone in debt — but set much earlier, at the beginning of the 18th century, and — I don’t know, I thought it felt pretty convincingly historical. It’s by Sophie Fisher, and I can’t find out anything about her, or any other books by her, and I’m kind of disappointed.
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Captain Blood Day: The Romantic Prince

September 19, 2013

So, Captain Blood Day. Yay!

Actually, though, I completely forgot about it until last week, so instead of thinking seriously about which Sabatini book I might want to talk about next, I just grabbed The Romantic Prince off my bookshelf. I read it once before — whenever Batman Begins came out, if the ticket stub I was using as a bookmark is any indication — and I recalled being pretty pleased with it.

If you’ve spent any significant amount of time reading Redeeming Qualities, you’ll know that I’m kind of fascinated by the way novelists solve problems. In particular, there’s a thing you get a lot in romance and adventure novels, where the hero is situated in such a way that it would be dishonorable for him to take any action whatsoever to resolve whatever issue he’s having. And often, as it is here, the issue is mostly just that the hero can’t be with the heroine. And sure, I love the resultant pining, but I also love watching the author’s resultant struggle to steer the characters to a happy ending without in any way impugning their honor. That’s Rafael Sabatini’s principal task in The Romantic Prince, so obviously it’s a lot of fun to me. It doesn’t hurt that the actual barriers keeping Count Anthony of Guelders and Johanna Claessens apart are strong enough that Sabatini doesn’t have to resort to the completely avoidable misunderstandings he seems to like so much. Read the rest of this entry ?


The Fool’s Love Story

October 4, 2012

You know how sometimes your daily life saps your will to do anything you’re not actually required to do? So, yeah. That. But I wanted to drop by to talk about “The Fool’s Love Story”, which I read on the tail end of the Sabatini kick that started with my reread of Bardelys the Magnificent.

It looks like The Fool’s Love Story might have been Sabatini’s first published story — it’s the first listed on the uncollected stories list on, and…it reads young. It’s about a Hofknarr, or court jester, in a small German kingdom in the mid-17th century. He’s in love with a young woman who’s engaged to an unworthy Frenchman, and it doesn’t end too well for anybody, really, unless you count the fact that I was completely delighted by it. Which was why I wanted to say something about it, but probably not in the way you think.

This is the thing: this story is pretty terrible. The plot is ridiculous, the writing is more than ridiculous, and you’re sort of plopped down in the middle of a fully formed emotional situation that never really changes. Also, dying heroically and tragically tends to go over a little better if there’s a point to it. But it’s Sabatini, who pretty much always gets me where I live, and I was totally sold by the time I hit “lean, sardonic countenance,” halfway through the first sentence.

Basically, I suspect this is one for the Sabatini devotees — and I’d be interested to know if I’m right.


Captain Blood Day: Bardelys the Magnificent

September 19, 2012

Happy Captain Blood Day, everyone! You can observe this holiday by reading adventure novels, trading witty barbs with people trying to unjustly sentence you to death, or, okay, talking like a pirate. But only if the pirate is Peter Blood.

I felt bad posting a negative review of a Sabatini book on Captain Blood Day last year, so this year I made sure to choose a book I know I like. And actually Bardelys the Magnificent is super appropriate as a follow up to The Suitors of Yvonne. It’s not just that it’s full of French courtiers for whom dueling is always a viable problem-solving tool — Bardelys the Magnificent came out four years after The Suitors of Yvonne and it frequently reads like Sabatini’s (successful) attempt to reshape that book into something, you know, good.

The bottom line is that sometime between 1902 and 1906, Rafael Sabatini acquired a knack for writing likable main characters, and I have yet to come across a later instance where it failed him. So there’s Gaston de Luynes, who is massively hateful, and then in between there’s the guy from The Tavern Knight, who’s just kind of irritating, and then there’s Bardelys, who’s got really poor judgment and terrible timing, but who I like quite a lot. Read the rest of this entry ?


Captain Blood Day: The Suitors of Yvonne

September 19, 2011

I hate to do this. I can’t believe I’m doing this. Here, for Captain Blood Day, is a bad review of a Rafael Sabatini book. But, given the book itself. I couldn’t very well have written a good one. And it’s not like I uncritically love all of Sabatini’s other books. This one is his first novel, The Suitors of Yvonne, and while I probably wouldn’t have been sure it was by Sabatini if his name wasn’t in the title page (and if, you know, I hadn’t known for years that his first novel was called The Suitors of Yvonne) you can sort of see hints of what he’s going to be like later.

For instance, Sabatini’s heroes are almays saying really cleverly insulting things to people they don’t like. And because they’re so cool and self-posessed and have such clever senses of humor and we know they’re all romantic and sensitive on the inside — and because their enemies are usually warped caricatures of human beings — it’s fun.

Gaston de Luynes, hero of The Suitors of Yvonne, is not like that. He is, in fact, kind of an asshole. I mean, he’s got the insulting part down, but not the clever part, and certainly not the sensitive part. Mostly, he’s just offensive. Read the rest of this entry ?


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