Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Review - Captain Blood

I've loved pirate adventures for as long as I can remember. I've picked up Sabatini's novels at Barnes & Nobel so many times it's pathetic…what's more pathetic is that I never bought one…until this past summer.

Part of the tipping point was that The Classic Tales podcast was offering an audiobook version of Captain Blood at a stellar price. Add to that the fact that BJ Harrison does a wonderful job in his readings, and I was determined to pick up the audio book and the novel itself for some summertime reading. Starting in August, I would listen to segments of the audio book and then also read passages from the novel to catch up and to glean more depth (the audio was unabridged, but since I was driving, I occasionally missed bits while concentrating on the crazy drivers around me).

The adventure of Captain Blood is amazing. The writing is beautiful and captivating. Peter Blood's wit and logic are wonderful and help create him as an amazing hero, pirate and gentleman. His resolve is indefatigable. His creativity and persistence are superb. His adventures are tense and exciting while also being well crafted and believable.

Sabatini creates in the world of Captain Blood, a vision of 17th century Caribbean that falls right in line with everything that encapsulates my visions of buccaneering pirates sailing the seas.

The characters are vivid and believable. There are certainly stereotypical typed characters, but even with these, Sabatini adds subtle nuances to create some depth. To the central character of Blood, I found myself sympathizing and relating to intimately. At times he felt a little too cool and collected, so I was glad that, as we reached the climax and started to wrap things up, his personality took on a harder edge based on the trials and his even keeled personality took on a cynicism worth exploring. He became a truly n-dimensional swashbuckler that I'll hold up for examination when diving into other pirate adventures.

While this story was filled with tons of wonderful adventure, excruciating tension, and exciting scenes of ingenuity, there were also some passages that slowed the pace down considerably through historical narrative and exposition on the nature of things in this time and place of history. In spite of slowing things down, these passages were still very interesting and added a wealth of depth to the story. I merely point this out to warn potential readers who are looking for a non-stop adventure that there will be moments of expository narrative as you sail the seas with Blood.

In addition to these historical interludes, readers should also be aware that a budding romance adventure lurks beneath the surface here. This certainly isn't a romance of the Victorian style such as you might find with Jane Austen, but there is a romantic feel…both in terms of romanticizing the life and times and in terms of an actual romantic relationship between Blood and another character. To those adverse to romance in their adventures…don't worry, the romantic scenes are short enough that you should survive discussions of culture, civility and the nature of man while Blood 'chews the fat' with the girl of his dreams. I actually found the romance a delightful addition to the narrative. Like the adventure itself, the romance was well constructed and full of tension and problems. In fact, I sometimes found myself more frustrated at the perils of romance than at the perils of the battles.

Overall, I can whole-heartedly recommend Captain Blood as an excellent novel. It is a wonderful portrayal of piratical adventure. It is very well written and contains significant historical information suggesting tons of research (not being a historical expert, I can't separate the history from the fiction…but Sabatini made a believer out of me, whatever the case).

Errol Flynn, the well-known portrayer of adventurers, played the title role in a 1935 film adaptation that I'm now intrigued to see. I've seen Flynn in The Sea Hawk and Robin Hood and am sure he'd make a fun Captain Blood.

So, if you have any inkling towards historical adventures, particularly pirate adventures, I definitely recommend you pick up Captain Blood. He'll swash your buckle and plunder your adventuring spirit.

4.5 stars

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