Cover image for The fencing master
The fencing master
Pérez-Reverte, Arturo.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Maestro de esgrima. English
Publication Information:
New York : Harcourt Brace & Co., [1998]

Physical Description:
245 pages ; 24 cm
Added Author:
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Everyone in Madrid in the torrid fall of 1868 is discussing political plots and revolution except for Don Jaime. He is a fencing master and a man of honor, an anachronism. For years he has been working on a Treatise on the Art of Fencing, the heart of which is his perfection of the unstoppable thrust. He is approached one day by a beautiful and mysterious woman with a scar at the corner of her mouth that hints at dark violence. She asks the maestro to teach her the unstoppable thrust. Eventhough Do-a Adela de Otero's weapons of charm and elegance are formidable, Don Jaime declines. But he is entirely unprepared for the unhurried, sure, and inexplicable movements that follow. Soon he finds himself involved in a plot that includes seduction, politics, secret documents, and murder. Rich with the historical detail of a decaying world that agonizes-as does the art of fencing-over ideals of honor and chivalry, The Fencing Master is superb literature and an honest-to-goodness page-turner.

Author Notes

Novelist and former journalist Arturo Pérez-Reverte Gutiérrez was born in Cartagena, Spain on November 25, 1951. He started his journalistic career writing for the Spanish newspaper Pueblo and later for Television Espanola - the Spanish state owned television, in the role of war correspondant. He worked as a war correspondent from 1973 to1994 before becoming a full-time writer. His first novel, El húsar, which was set in the Napoleonic Wars, was published in 1986, and he is well-known internationally for his popular Captain Alatriste fiction series, which takes place in 17th-century Europe. Pérez-Reverte has been elected to the Spanish Royal Academy.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The author of the successfully suspenseful Seville Communion now writes a novel no less dramatic and certainly no less atmospheric than its predecessor. The time is 1868, and the Spanish capital of Madrid is seething with plans and rumors of conspiracy against the regime of the disreputable, discredited queen, Isabella II. Don Jaime Astarloa, a fencing master, has other things on his mind. During this time of political unrest, an interesting young woman, Dona Adela de Otero, asks Don Jaime to teach her his fencing specialty, the "two-hundred-escudo thrust." Don Jaime overcomes his shock at hearing such a request from a lady and gives her the lessons she desires, but he is soon involved in the political intrigues swirling around him. What connection does Dona Adela have to the plot he unwittingly seems to have been sucked into? Then a friend of his is murdered, and the plot, of course, thickens, for Dona Adela disappears. She turns up dead--but is the body really hers? Finally, Don Jaime learns what his place in the plot really was--what purpose his involuntary participation served--and this leads to a walloping ending. (Reviewed February 1, 1999)0151001812Brad Hooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Chess, antiquarian books, the Catholic ChurchÄall 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 relentlessÄand 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 peopleÄincluding 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 swashbucklersÄthough as one might expect, the book is more literate than any Hollywood film. For all mystery collections.ÄBarbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

I. The Fencing Boutp. 5
II. Compound Attack with Two Feintsp. 31
III. Uncertain 'Time' on a False Attackp. 57
IV. The Short Lungep. 81
V. Glissadep. 128
VI. An Attack on the Bladep. 156
VII. The Appelp. 181
VIII. With Bare Bladesp. 207