The Cavalier in the Yellow Doublet

Written by Arturo Pérez-Reverte Margaret Jull Costa (trans.)
Review by Eva Ulett

In this fifth book in the adventures of Captain Alatriste, the captain and his page, soldier in training Íñigo Balboa, experience a respite in Madrid from fighting in Flanders. Madrid in 1626 is enchanted with the theater and with the actors, playwrights and poets of the day. When Captain Alatriste and amorous Spanish monarch Philip IV receive favors from the same beautiful actress, the captain’s enemies use the rivalry in their own cause. Captain Alatriste’s friends, the high and the low, gather round him when he is accused of plotting regicide; poet, playwright and wit don Francisco de Quevado, King Philip IV’s favorite the Count of Guadalmedina, and 16-year-old old Íñigo Balboa. Yet the captain’s most loyal companion, Íñigo, may prove a dangerous connection with his love for Angélica, a “poisonous young woman,” and niece of the sinister royal secretary Luis de Alquézar.

Akin to the preceding novels, The Cavalier in the Yellow Doublet is a superior adventure story wherein swordfights, gallantry, and intrigue are never lacking. But the deeper enjoyment in all five adventures of Captain Alatriste is in Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s prose. In the guise of narrator Íñigo Balboa, a mature soldier looking back on 17th-century Spain, Pérez-Reverte ponders the Spanish hunger for luxury and the “moral infirmity that destroyed the Spanish empire, that empire of two worlds – the legacy of hard, arrogant, brave men who had emerged out of eight centuries spent cutting Moorish throats.” Even a heretic can recognize that The Cavalier in the Yellow Doublet is a gem.