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¡No queda sino batirnos!

"He was not the most honest man, nor the most pious, but he was a brave man."
- Íñigo de Balboa, The Adventures of Captain Alatriste
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The Adventures of Captain Alatriste is a series of Historical Fiction novels written by Arturo Pérez-Reverte starring a Spanish soldier-turned-mercenary-turned-sword-for-hire, the titular Diego Alatriste y Tenorio (who was never an actual Captain in the Army, but was called that way). Alatriste is a veteran of the Flanders War who lives badly in 17th-century Europe, looking for shady jobs and sometimes being lead to international conspiracies involving the Spanish Crown and the Inquisition. At the same time, Alatriste trains a squire, Íñigo de Balboa, the orphan child of an old friend; Íñigo serves as the narrator of the story. The series includes adventures and noir in a well-researched historical setting.

Seven books have been published so far, with two more in the making:

  • Captain Alatriste (1996): In 1623, Alatriste is trusted to take care of the young Íñigo while he awaits in Madrid to rejoin his division on Flanders. In order to make money, he accepts an offer to kill two English travellers that are about to arrive on the city, but the situation soon spirals our of control.
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  • Purity of Blood (1997): Alatriste is hired by a family of conversos (descendants of Jews converted to Catholicism) to rescue their daughter from a convent she was forced to join, while poor Íñigo gets into a conflict with The Spanish Inquisition.
  • The Sun over Breda (1998): It's 1625 and both Alatriste and Íñigo as his squire travel to the front on Flanders, as an offensive is planned over the Dutch-held city of Breda. Looked down by some fans for its Unexpected Genre Change, as it's more of a war story with little resemblance to the swashbuckling theme of the first two books.
  • The King's Gold (2000): Arriving in Seville from Flanders, Alatriste is hired to lead a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits against a docked Flemish ship that is suspected of smugling Indian gold out of Spain.
  • The Cavalier in the Yellow Doublet (2003): Back in Madrid, Alatriste begins a relationship with the famous theatre actress María de Castro, but soon becomes enbroiled in a fight with a mysterious cavalier for the love of the actress and a wider conspiracy against the Spanish Monarchy.
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  • Corsairs of the Levant (2008): Alatriste and Íñigo join the galleys of the Levant in their struggle against the Ottoman Turks, leading them to an adventure all over the Mediterranean. (Published in English as Pirates of the Levant.)
  • The Bridge of the Assassins (2011): Christmas 1627. Alatriste must join forces with an old enemy in a cover mission to kill the Dogue of Venice.
  • Alquézar's Revenge (unreleased)
  • Mission in Paris (unreleased): Presumed to be set against the backdrop of the 1643 Battle of Rocroi and culminate with Alatriste's death

There is also a movie, starring Viggo Mortensen, that tries to condense the nine plots all at once. A TV series adaptation aired in early 2015, flopping notably.


Provides Examples Of:

  • The Ace:
    • The Count of Guadalmedina, though his presence in the plot is usually fairly small. Still, he is handsome, rich, noble, cultured, popular, witty, and a good enough swordsman to give even Alatriste pause. He could easily be the protagonist of a more romantic and idealistic swashbuckling tale.
    • In terms of skill, Alatriste is the best swordman in the series, to the extent that he can hold his own against five Elite Mooks at once and even defeat Malatesta in a few moves after battling an entire night. He only gets in danger when outnumbered or disabled, and he still always finds a way out.
  • Agent Peacock: Ginesillo in The King's Gold, who is acknowledged to be homosexual (and a flamboyant one, who required some serious cojones at the time and place).
  • Ambiguously Evil:
    • Angélica de Alquézar. While it's clear that she is into her uncle's machinations, how much remains unknown.
    • Gualterio Malatesta counts as well. He is insistently presented as sneaky, malicious, and even sadistic, but his goals aren't much more evil than Alatriste's, as he is another hired gun who simply follows what his recruiter (who most of the time happens to be the Big Bad) orders him.
  • Anti-Hero: Alatriste is a hired sellsword desperately clinging to his broken and battered moral compass.
  • Arc Words: The book series's most famous quote is ¡No queda sino batirnos! (There's no choice but to fight!). Contrary to popular belief, this is not Alatriste's Catch-Phrase, but a statement uttered by a drunk Quevedo in the first pages of the series. It doesn't fully becomes a recurrent quote either; if the quote comes up, odds are that it is said as a resigned Ironic Echo or a Flashback to Catchphrase.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: And the lower nobles the worst of all. The Count of Guadalmedina is an exception until the end of The Cavalier in the Yellow Doublet.
  • Badass Mustache:
    • Just look at the image, damn it! Iñigo laments in an aside his lifelong inability to grow one nearly so magnificent as Alatriste.
    • The Count-Duke of Olivares sports a fiery mustache too (as he did in Real Life).
  • Beard of Evil: Alquézar.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Meeting several historical characters, taking a part in historical events.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Quevedo at the end of the first book.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Angélica. Subverted in that Íñigo does see her as the Rich Bitch she is, but he is too much in love to do something.
  • Black and Gray Morality: Everybody, starting with the titular character and working up and down. Much of Iñigo Balboa's Character Development involves growing disillusioned with the morals and ideals of the age.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: In the movie, and confirmed by Word of God for the books. It's just that the author has not bothered to write the scene down yet.
  • Catch-Phrase: Subverted. As said above in Arc Words, the identification of "There's no choice but to fight" to Alatriste or Quevedo is superficial at the best, being said by the former and rarely used again. (If Alatriste had something resembling a catch phrase, it woud be depressed silence.) However, it does synthesize pretty well the universe's philosophy: if Quevedo is saying it, Alatriste is probably thinking it too.
  • Crapsack World: The novels portray 17th-century Spain in all its military, literary and artistic glory... and all its political, economical and moral misery.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Everybody. Alatriste particularly makes a point of teaching Iñigo all the dirty tricks.
  • Compressed Adaptation: The movie is mostly a cut-and-paste job of elements from all the books. Which means that unlike in the individual books (which all had interesting plots), we don't actually get an engaging plot, just a selection of set pieces (as if the movie was a series of illustrations for the novels).
  • Corrupt Bureaucrat: Often alluded to as two of the chief reasons behind the decline of the Spanish Empire. Olmedilla from The King's Gold stands out for not being a corrupt bureaucrat, which even makes him a tragic character.
  • Cultured Warrior: What Alatriste spends most of the series trying to make Iñigo into. As the boy is determined to follow the good Captain into the life of a soldier, Alatriste gets him a worthy if somewhat haphazard education in the classics as well as in Latin and Greek, so Iñigo has prospects beyond those of a poverty-stricken veteran. Judging for Iñigo's digressions about his own life after the series, it worked and he ended up doing rather well for himself.
  • Cynical Mentor: Alatriste has shades of this in regard to Iñigo, not out of cruelty or ill-disposition, but simply because of the Crapsack World setting. One of the most emotional moments happens in The Sun over Breda, when he slits a wounded enemy soldier's throat in the aftermath of a battle. Iñigo calls him out on it; Alatriste quietly replies that he's merely put the man out of his misery, and that they'll be lucky if they get the same treatment when their moment comes.
  • Dashing Hispanic: The books show how actually unrealistic this archetype was. Guadalmedina is the only character that really might count, and it is because he is a high-class guy and actively cultivates this image.
  • Deadly Decadent Court: Complete with spies, masked conspirators and plenty of backstabbing.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Someone insulted you? Challenge him to a duel and kill him. You think someone insulted you? Challenge him to a duel and kill him. You pretend someone insulted you because someone else paid you to kill the first someone? ¡No queda sino batirnos! Welcome to an honor culture with a poor law enforcement and an overabundance of poverty-stricken veterans.
  • Edutainment Show: The series was created by the author to teach his teen daughter about the Spanish Golden Age, with each book being devoted to one aspect of it. In the published books, these are respectively Politics, Religion, the Flanders War, Economics, Theatre, the low-scale Forever War against the Turks in the Mediterranean and the long time love/hate relationship between Spain and the Republic of Venice.
  • El Spanish "-o": The Moor Aixa Ben Gurriat is forced to change his name to the hispanicized "Gurriato" upon joining the Spanish navy.
  • Even Evil Has Standards / Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Despite being portrayed as a thoroughly rotten guy, Malatesta can't bring himself to kill 13-year-old Iñigo Balboa. He's also visibly remorseful about handing Iñigo over to the Inquisition. Iñigo's age also saves him from torture at the hands of the inquisitors (it doesn't save him from a harsh interrogation, though).
  • Evil Counterpart: Gualterio Malatesta is basically Alatriste without his Screw the Money, I Have Rules! part. Not what Malatesta thinks, though; he believes they are both Not So Different.
  • Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon: Constantly invoked by Íñigo when thinking about Angélica.
  • Famous Ancestor: A joke in the later books reveals that Alatriste is a grand-nephew of Don Juan Tenorio (the author had in fact chosen Tenorio as Alatriste's mother's family name in homage to Don Juan, when he was writing the first book). Note that in the original legend (and especially Zorrilla's play Don Juan Tenorio, which is the one most Spaniards are familiar with), Don Juan is just as famous as a duelist as a, er, "seducer", so this also works as a sort of In the Blood for Alatriste.
  • Fille Fatale: Angélica de Alquézar, becoming also a Rich Bitch as she grows up.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Íñigo Balboa y Aguirre, the young Basque squire of Alatriste, is the first person narrator of each of the books. They're written as if his memoirs from late in life, so he regularly hints at later events including various characters' eventual deaths and his own career following in Alatriste's footsteps as a soldier.
  • Foe Romance Subtext: Angélica and Íñigo.
  • Friendly Enemy: Gualterio Malatesta, to a surprisingly sympathetic extent. He sees Alatriste as a familiar Worthy Opponent, and genuinely believes (with some accuracy) that they could have been great friends in other circumstances.
  • Hidden Badass: Alatriste is a man of few words in the Spanish underworld of the time, where bragging and boasting are the norm. Some make the mistake of taking him for a coward, and pay dearly for it.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Lots of them.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Zig-zagged in the case of Olivares. He's a shrewd, ruthless politician with his hands stuck in literal conspirations, but his goals aren't particularly villainous and he never goes out of his way to do anything evil. Alquézar and Bocanegra, on the other hand, are straight examples.
  • Hitman with a Heart: Alatriste.
  • Historical In-Joke: The Sun over Breda has one about how this painting was made (and why Alatriste does not appear on it).
  • Homage: The whole series can be read as Pérez Reverte's homage to the genre of historical adventure, especially Alexandre Dumas and Patrick O'Brien, but with a Darker and Edgier twist. It also reads as a Perspective Flip, since much of that literature has traditionally been written by British or French authors and tends to portray Spaniards as the bad guys.
  • Homage Shot: In the movie, the scene of the surrender of Breda is modelled after Velazquez's famous painting.
  • Improvised Weapon: Swashbucklers use their cape both as a weapon (throwing it over the opponent's sword or head to unbalance him and slow down his blade) and as a shield, which is historically accurate.
  • King Incognito: The point around which two of the books revolve: the Englishman that Alatriste is hired to kill in Captain Alatriste is the Prince of Wales and future king Charles I of England travelling in disguise, and Alatriste's rival for the actress' love in The Cavalier in the Yellow Doublet is none other but Philip IV of Spain.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Inquisitor Emilio Bocanegra, whose last name means "black mouth." He is a rather vile and hateful man whose mere word can damn a person to torture and death, and is introduced ordering Alatriste to murder someone he had only been hired to scare off.
    • Alatriste means literally "sad wing", which may be a reference to his depressing (but accurate) life philosophy.
    • Malatesta means "bad head" in Italian, which defines most of his character.
    • In a funnier light, Bartolo Cagafuego's last name means literally "fire shitter", which references his spirited boasts.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: "Your king is your king" (even if he is an incompetent douchebag).
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: María de Castro is a rather obvious stand-in for the real actress María Calderón with a few changes for story purposes. Ironically, the book mentions María Calderón as her sucessor in the Spanish theatre.
  • Non-Action Guy: Played for Drama with Olmedilla. While not being a fighter like the rest of the party, he takes part in the Niklaasbergen raid to ensure the plan goes the right way and gets swiftly killed as a result.
  • Not So Different: Malatesta invoke this towards Alatriste, and the latter sometimes agrees.
  • Politically Correct History: The series makes a point of averting this.
  • Precision F-Strike: Several instances. It's also pointed out in the first book that sailors learn insults phonetically in other languages to shout at the opponent before the expected Boarding Party.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Moor Gurriato.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: In Corsairs of the Levant, Alatriste kills two soldiers in his own unit without second thoughts because he walks in on them trying to rape a woman. Note that he stabs the guys without warning, and that this happens while the unit is conducting an unprovoked raid against said woman's tribe. An example of the Black and Gray Morality of the series.
  • Running Gag: Angélica constantly mispronounces the name Alatriste, calling him Batistre or El Triste, although presumably by choice, as she should know well his name.
  • Scary Black Man: The Moor Campuzano in The King's Gold, complete with a BFS.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Alatriste is paid to slay two men, but refuses when the first one he is about to kill begs him to spare his companion. This makes him an enemy of the people who hired him.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Alatriste is strongly implied to be this to some extent, [[spoiler up to the point of having suicidal tendencies.]]
  • Shown Their Work
  • Sidekick: Alatriste initially tries to keep young Iñigo Balboa out of his dangerous and shady business, but soon gives up.
  • Sinister Minister: Inquisitor Bocanegra.
  • Suspiciously Small Army: In the movie. All we see of the battle of Rocroi is about a dozen Spanish foot soldiers and twice as many Frenchmen on horse.
  • Swashbuckler
  • The Cavalier Years
  • The Film of the Book: Alatriste (2006), starring Viggo Mortensen.
  • The Man Behind the Curtain: Inquisitor Bocanegra. Literally: he is introduced in his first scene by emerging from behind a curtain in the room Alatriste is being hired as a hitman.
  • The Spanish Inquisition: Of course, given the setting. And this time, everybody expects it.
  • The Squad: The focus of the action in The Sun over Breda.
  • Toros y Flamenco:
    • Justified and done correctly. The second book opens with a 17th century historically accurate bullfight that does not look like modern ones in the least.
    • Inverted in The King's Gold. Despite gypsies having arrived in Spain by that time, the book's description of Seville lacks any mention of Flamenco, which could have been credible to some degree (though still not completely accurate)
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Since they are told by a "contemporary" narrator, the original books are in 17th century Spanish, often with words that are rare or no longer used today, and 17th century slang popping out constantly in the dialogue. Not to mention the parts written in other languages without translation provided, such as Portuguese or even Germanía - an argot of the criminal underworld that has been dead for centuries. As expected, the series is a pain in the ass for professional translators.
  • War Is Hell: Often alluded to, this trope takes the stage in The Sun over Breda and Corsairs of the Levant. All Iñigo can manage to say of it when asked later is that it's "dirty and gray."
  • Warrior Poet: Don Francisco de Quevedo, literally and despite a lame foot. Iñigo as narrator, as well, especially given his regular digressions about his life after Alatriste's death where he is almost as capable a swordsman and soldier as Alatriste, but more fortunate in politics and promotion.
  • Young Future Famous People: Velázquez is first introduced as a young painter just arrived from Seville that Quevedo likes to mock.

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