In 2016 I read some fantasy novels, historical fiction, historical non-fiction, and a couple of teamwork books. I don’t count all the online reading I do for research. I’ve always been a history buff, and have recently been into historical fiction more than any other genre.
I like to go to used book stores and thrift stores and rummage through the stacks. You never know what you’ll find on those musty shelves. This year I found The Fencing Master by Arturo Pérez – Reverte at the local Goodwill store.
The Fencing Master is set in Madrid in 1868 during the Spanish Revolution that disposed Queen Isabella II. While the politics taking place in Madrid are a strong backdrop to the story, it really centers around the fencing master Don Jaime and his adherence to the older social structure of honor and fencing. This way of life has been all but displaced by the rise of firearms and a more liberal political order. The story is a clash between the old and the new and much of the tension is internal to Don Jaime.
The narrative does drag a bit when it focuses too much on the politics, but makes up for it in the characterization of Don Jaime and the focus on fencing. This book gives the reader a good understanding of the fencing culture of the Early Modern Period in Europe, just like Moby Dick did for the American whaling culture of the 19th century.
I enjoyed the story because of the strong character of Don Jaime, the historical backdrop of the Spanish Revolution, and the fencing content. It captured the essence of the fencing era from an interesting retrospective viewpoint.