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Argh, You Rogue!

January 4, 2008

As you might have guessed, this is a Seafaring Challenge post. ;) I’ve recently read two more of my challenge picks, which makes me a Commodore! And let me tell you, my uniform is in perfect condition (those who read the rules closely might seafaring001_med.pngnotice that I had to read a classic to attain this rank…while not officially one of my choices, I think Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea counts for that). While the two books I read were very different, both were completely satisfying stories of two essential seafaring aspects: treasure hunting and pirates.

But first off, can we even talk about how many book giveaways are going on right now?! It’s BAFAB week, so Rhinoa’s got three books up for grabs and Dewey’s offering any new book under $20 at Amazon and her ARC of Thirteen Reasons Why. The Indextrious Reader giving away a book to kick off the Russian Reading Challenge. And my giveaway’s still open (if you’d like to win Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman or The Collector by John Fowles, leave a comment on the ‘Resolutions and Challenges ’08’; for an extra chance at winning, link that post in your blog mentioning the contest). What a fun way to start the new year!

Georgette Heyer provided the pirates in her Elizabethan historical novel Beauvallet. Last November, Heyer began getting a lot of attention in my corner of the book blogging world; it seemed like every other blogger was reading one of her novels (the most common was An Infamous Army) and loving it. This culminated, for me, in an extended Estella’s Revenge article entitled: A Case for Georgette Heyer. This convinced me to give her a try, so I ran over to bookmooch, where the selection was sadly limited. However, Beauvallet caught my eye (pirates! the Golden Age!) and all too soon it was in my hot little hands. Where it languished until a couple nights ago. But once I read the opening paragraph, I was hooked

The deck was a shambles. Men lay dead and dying; there was split woodwork, a welter of broken spizzen and sagging sail, dust and grime, and the reek of powder. A ball screamed through the rigging overhead; another tore the sea into wild foam beneath the galleon’s stern. She seemed to stagger, to reel, to list heavily to port. From his quarterdeck Don Juan de Narvaez gave a sharp order; his lieutenant went running down the companion into the waist of the ship.

The plot is pretty simple: Beauvallet is an English ‘pirate’ (more, a guerrilla captain against Spain, with Elizabeth’s blessing) who falls in love with a Spanish noblewoman (well, noble young landy). She returns the favour, and he promises to come to Spain to claim her as his bride before the year is out. For anyone who knows a smidgen of history, the problem is pretty obvious. For any Englishman to enter Spain at that time carried many dangers (not least, the Inquisition, eager to get its hands on the new English heretics), but for one of the most celebrated pirates of the time (in the book, he’s best friends with Sir Francis Drake) seems suicide. Fortunately, Beauvallet has a few tricks up his sleeves! This is one of those books where you go in knowing the ending, and the fun is to see how the author gets you there. And believe me, it is fun. Heyer puts a ton of historical detail in-from costuming to Beauvallet’s family lineage-that really helped me enter the Golden Age. And there was plenty of swashbuckling deliciousness. It kind of reminded me of The Scarlet Pimpernel, in that the action takes centerstage. While not the deepest book I’ve ever read, I will definitely be looking into more Heyer. She obviously does a lot of research to place her historical novels, but doesn’t let that get in the way of a rip-roaring tale!

The treasure hunting tale was also set in Spain, albeit the modern day version. Arturo Reverte-Perez, best known in America (I think) for The Club Dumas, delivered a winding plot full of sailor lore and details in The Nautical Chart. For this one, plot (the attempt to find a sunken Jesuit ship) took second-place to the characters. The ones the reader gets to know best are Coy, a Merchant Marine currently deprived of his license for running his last ship aground, and Tanger, a mysterious and beautiful young Spanish historian whose obsession with the sunken ship-Dei Gloria-blasts anything in its way. For much of the book, Coy is in the dark and the reader right along with him; Tanger dribbles out the details only when she’s forced to. Meanwhile, dark forces, in the form of a ruthless and wealthy treasure hunter and his hired goon, a former Argentinian general and dwarf, are in hot pursuit. While the reader gets a few historical hints (Coy imagines what it must have been link for the Dei Gloria to try to outrun the pirate ship that brought her down), the story stays firmly in the present. Reverte-Perez is a masterful plotter, so I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. My favourite aspect of the book was Coy’s thoughts on the sea. This really helped bring it alive for me! All in all, recommended for those who enjoy plots that unfold slowly and detailed characters. The biggest drawback of the book, for me at least, and one I also noticed in The Club Dumas is the really odd view of women (as these mysterious, inexplicable, virtually goddess-like but also inherently wicked creatures). Fortunately, it isn’t too big of an issue.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 6, 2008 10:53 pm

    Will you be reading any more for this challenge or are you finished? I have 2 more to go.

    I’m catching up on my blog reading finally. 205 books read last year? Wow! You rock!

  2. January 7, 2008 4:41 am

    Hi Petunia! Good to see you again. :) I have one left, Beat to Quarters which is the first book (published-wise) of the Horatio Hornblower series. I’m looking forward to it!

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  1. Seafaring Challenge Wrap-Up « A Striped Armchair

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