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5.0 out of 5 stars Thrust through the heart
Perez-reverte has an excellent portfolio. The Club Dumas was a mystery enhanced by the world's underground commerce in ancient texts, and characters out of ancient romances. In The Fencing Master, he relates the story of an aging (50) fencing master barely surviving off the teaching of noble numbskulls, a mysterious femme fatale looking for a fencing lesson, and a twisted...
Published on Jan. 20 2011 by Brian Ashe

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1.0 out of 5 stars for neophytes
If you know fencing, have been practicing it, this is not for you. The book is not engaging and the characters are very generic
Published 10 months ago by Alexandre Charbonneau


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1.0 out of 5 stars for neophytes, May 22 2013
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This review is from: The Fencing Master (Paperback)
If you know fencing, have been practicing it, this is not for you. The book is not engaging and the characters are very generic
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thrust through the heart, Jan. 20 2011
By 
Brian Ashe "Fantast" (Ottawa, Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Fencing Master (Paperback)
Perez-reverte has an excellent portfolio. The Club Dumas was a mystery enhanced by the world's underground commerce in ancient texts, and characters out of ancient romances. In The Fencing Master, he relates the story of an aging (50) fencing master barely surviving off the teaching of noble numbskulls, a mysterious femme fatale looking for a fencing lesson, and a twisted plot of revenge, all set in an unsettled period of Spanish history.

The story is told through the eyes and mind of Don Jaime, who is long resigned to being a bachelor, and a member of the genteel poor. Although his body is slowly failing, he is still the best fencing master in the city, and knows several excellent and little-known thrusts. The femme fatale, Adela de Ortero, approaches him to learn such a thrust, and eventually, spurred by poverty, lust, and her unexpected fencing expertise, ... Although the plot is relatively predictable, that's not the purpose of this book. Perez is, as usual, an expert at evoking a mood, an era, and the internal uncertainty of an ordered mind. The era is the death of Spanish classicism, including the art of fencing, and the revolution of 1868. No, you don't have to know the history to enjoy the story, just bask in it.

The language is deceptively simple, whether it is the author's or the translator's. It drags you into the story and keeps you there. Yes, it takes a few minutes to get used to the language, but by the second chapter, the rhythm is well established, and becomes part of you.

This is not Stephen King. Climb in and enjoy!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Perez-Reverte Redux, Oct. 3 2003
By 
David W. Nicholas (Montrose, Ca United States) - See all my reviews
This novel by Arturo Perez-Reverte is something of a departure from his other books. Instead of a book set in modern times where the story connects to the past, this story actually takes place in the past, back in 1868 when the Spanish monarchy was on its last wobbly legs. The protagonist and title character is Don Jaime, a fencing master in Madrid who has had most of his life defined by the art (he insists on calling it that rather than a sport) and by his conception of honor, which was probably old-fashioned when he was a young man, and is now sadly outdated. He has killed men in fencing duels, and had to flee Spain as a result, living for years in exile in France (there's no explanation in the plot, at least as far as I could see, for his rehabilitation so that he could live in Spain again) and learning from a master fencer there.
In Madrid, he teaches fencing mostly to young boys whose parents are wealthy, well-born, and spoiled. He has several adult students, however, and one in particular, a dissolute libertine of a nobleman who enjoys the passtime of fencing. Don Jaime's only other social contacts consist of an unofficial social club who meet daily at a local restaurant and argue about politics, society, and so forth. These arguments provide (as one of the other reviewers pointed out) exposition for the political turmoil of 1868 Spain, which would otherwise be obscure to most.
Into Don Jaime's fading world of honor and dignity steps a woman. She is (of course) gorgeous and turns out to be intelligent and (naturally) a wonderful fencer also. Don Jaime takes her on as a pupil, at first reluctantly, and begins to simultaneously fall in love with her. But things go awry, the bodies begin to pile up, and Don Jaime, in the middle of things, is in some trouble because while he's very skilled with a foil, he's basically a babe in the woods when it comes to political intrigue.
This is a very good novel, full of layers and textures, as all of Perez-Reverte's novels are and do. The plot is a bit more obvious than in some of his other books, and has bits and pieces of plots from other detective novelist, borrowing from Agatha Christie and Mickey Spillane with no compunctions. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don Jaime, where are you now?, Aug. 30 2003
By 
"skeeterpoke" (Duvall, WA United States) - See all my reviews
Arturo Perez-Reverte makes me wish I could read Spanish. That is - possibly - the only way his works could get any better. I've read all of his novels that have been translated into English, and "The Fencing Master" is the one that grabbed me by the lapels, so to speak, and dragged me into 19th-century Madrid. I must say I was not inclined to put up much resistance.
The story centers around Don Jaime, an antiquated fencing master, one of the last of a dying breed in an age where the pistol is gaining popularity as the means civilized men use to kill each other. Don Jaime lives his life according to a personal sense of reality, one that revolves entirely around the concept of honor. He realizes that he is a fossil, and that others may look at him as an aging dandy, but he does not mind. In fact, he hardly notices the outside world at all.
Until one day he is summoned to the house of a beautiful young woman, who demands to know the secret of the unstoppable thrust (Don Jaime's personal invention). And nothing in the fencing master's world is ever the same again. To give the story away would be criminal, but rest assured intrigue, politics, and mystery abound.
Mr. Perez-Reverte has done his usual prodigious amount of homework, and Madrid in the late 1860's springs to life from the page. I probably know even less about fencing than the average person (my information comes solely from period-piece movies), and the sword fights described kept me awake long into the night. Even week nights. The final bout is a masterpiece of suspense and beauty, an illustration of the age-old struggle between good and evil, hope and despair. My only niggling question is, how did the beautiful young woman acquire that enigmatic little scar at the corner of her mouth?
In short, a fantastic read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Fencing Master, Aug. 19 2011
This review is from: The Fencing Master (Paperback)
"The Way of the Warrior is found in Death". Though written in Japan in the "Hagakure" the words are equally applicable to Spanish writer Arturo Perez-Reverte's protagonist of The Fencing Master, Don Jaime Astarloa. Don Jaime is a man who has had many successes- and some deep failures- in his life. An impoverished gentleman of impeccable conduct, a man of deep passions, and, when necessary, an efficient killer, he is now into the last part of his life before inevitable old age forces him to lay down his sword for the last time- and he knows it. For Don Jaime is a fencing master in the Madrid of the mid-19th century, one of the last teaching the art of the sword as a means of life and death on the field of honour and the battlefield, teaching his martial art- for such it is, before being turned into nothing but a sport of taps and touches- to those few pupils he still has left.
Into his world comes a beautiful and wealthy woman, a lady of mystery, who wishes to learn the old Master's secrets and willing to pay handsomely for the priviledge. Against his wishes, he is drawn more and more to her, both by her beauty and mystery and her undoubted skill with a sword.
At the same time, he begins to be drawn into a treacherous web of murder and betrayal, of lies and secrets, all taking place within the context of a national crisis. And, in spite of his political naivete, Don Jaime begins to realise that he is being used.
Yet those who are using him have forgotten a simple fact- naivete does not mean helplessness. And for Don Jaime, his life being endangered is old and familiar territory.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A simple, straightforward book, June 8 2004
By 
Huff Daddy (Blairsville, GA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Fencing Master (Hardcover)
I have not read any of the author's other books, so I cannot compare, and really that's not very fair. I was under the impression that this was a thriller but the book really felt like a romance to me.

Not that that's all bad, but nothing seemed to be happening until about page 150. The premise: old fencing master is approached by a mysterious and beautiful female student to learn a "secret" but deadly fencing move and lust and deceit ensue. I couldn't help but picture Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Wait, they already did that movie.

The story is more than a little predictable, but that didn't stop me from enjoying it, mornings at my local coffee shop. I have to say that the motive in the book was lost on me, maybe if my Spanish history was better. It didn't help that my knowledge of Spanish Revolution of 1868, the back drop of the novel, is zero. Seeing that Pérez-Reverte is a native of Spain, his core readers may have been better in tune than I.
The Fencing Master is such a simple, straightforward book that it is difficult to say much without giving much of the story away. Though predictable, it was an enjoyable read and it was nice to read an international best seller for a change of pace.
Oh, by the way from Fencing.net's glossary: Foible: the upper, weak part of the blade.
For more details, go to aj.huff.org. Thanks.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The fencing master, Dec 2 2003
By 
Michael Peters (Guelph, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
Perez-Reverte's "fencing master" is a delight to read. This author, in every book he writes, provides the reader with a depth of background research that vastly enriches the subject he writes about. The main character, an aging fencing master, is drawn in stark, black tones, resembling Kurosawa's "seven samurai" master swordsman in his absolute dedication to his art. And, as usual, there is a complex plot. A fascinating and mysterious young woman engages the fencing master on several levels. P-R's women are dangerous, beautiful, intelligent and resourceful. No bimbos in P-R's universe! As in all of P-R's books, there is a definite Castilian air of death, sex, beauty and spare asceticism. Yum Yum.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Perez-Reverte's Mysterious, Beautiful and Evil Woman, Nov. 25 2003
By A Customer
I have only read a couple of books by Arturo Perez-Reverte and have enjoyed them all, but have noticed that he has a fascination with the mysterious, demonically beautiful and evil woman.
I'm not providing a summary because it will spoil the story. Let the story unfold and let the author whisk you off your feet if you like murder mysteries with a period setting with perhaps a hint of the supernatural.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another great one from Perez-Reverte, Sept. 2 2003
I already had The Fencing Master on my shelf after having loved Pérez-Reverte's The Club Dumas (which is about antiquarian book dealers, and is much better than The Ninth Gate, its film adaptation--despite the presence of Johnny Depp). So, after finishing The Orchid Thief, I picked it up to read as well. It's a story of mystery and intrigue involving Don Jaime Astarloa, the local fencing master, who lives in a reclusive mansion and concerns himself with little other than his chosen occupation.
That is, until a mysterious woman--Doña Adele de Otero--asks him to teach her his secret, unstoppable fencing thrust. Don Jaime is distraught. Teach a woman a gentleman's sport? Never! But she turns out to be quite proficient and he gives in, but not before he falls in love with her.
This sets into action a chain of events that will end up with at least two people dead before it is all worked out. Pérez-Reverte is excellent at this sort of intrigue and I was glued to every page, even as I was absorbing the art of fencing.
Now, due to reading The Fencing Master, I want to learn how to fence.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fencing for Passion and Honor, March 30 2003
Here is a tale of an aging fencing master in mid-19th century Spain, a man out of sync with his times, barely aware of the political turmoil swirling around him or of the changing fashions and world in which he lives. Devoted to his arcane medieval art of swordsmanship, in an age of pistols and crass commerce, he lives in a museum-like apartment, sustaining himself by teaching fencing to a few less-than-promising students, the sons of the lesser nobility. Himself a commoner, he is the picture of the faded gentleman, a man more suited to the nobility than many of those who are his social superiors and to whom he must defer.
Without family or real friends (excluding a few local cafe acquaintances with whom he has little in common save loneliness and a sense of marginalization), the fencing master observes his own slow physical decline and is acutely aware that his best years are behind him . . . his future but one thing: the inevitable loss of bodily strength and skill with the blade (which, alone, sustains him materially and spiritually). At the end of his lonely trail lies a sojourn in a hostel for the aged, attended by the nuns, until he breathes his last.
Forseeing his own inevitable decline, he is no less aware that the art he espouses, no longer esteemed in the society in which he lives, will fade, like him, to a shadow of its former self, the more so as men of his ilk pass inexorably from the scene. And so, the old "maestro" devotes himself, in these fading days, to a book he is composing, a master work on the art he loves, and to developing the one thing that will, in his estimation, leave a real mark and make that work worthwhile, setting it apart from hundreds of other fencing treatises: the description of his hoped for grail, the "unstoppable thrust". But this, the ultimate fencing technique he longs to discover and document, eludes him, as it has throughout the preceding 30 years of his life.
One day, as he struggles with his few students and his manuscript, a mysterious young woman, new to Madrid, summmons him to her apartments and presents an unorthodox request . . . that the maestro take her, a woman, on as his student. Astonished and confused, as much by the alluring charm of his petitioner as by the inappropriateness of her request in a still conservative Spain, the maestro wavers . . . drawn to a youthful and mysterious beauty that awakens in him old dreams and remembrances. And yet he bridles at this proposed violation of those venerable traditions that are the one consoling constant in his life.
But the lady isn't quite what she seems and her purpose in soliciting the special lessons is hidden from him because of the confusion her raven black hair, smooth skin and brightly blue eyes stir in his heart. And so he is charmed enough to entertain the idea . . . a step that will have seismic repercussions on the small and carefully ordered world of his life.
This tale, of a noble soul on the edge of that abyss which awaits us all, is moving and perceptive. As the old maestro succumbs to a brief revival of his youthful spirit, he is sucked into a vortex of intrigue and murder and will face what will prove to be the most dangerous duel of his professional life. In this he loses and finds himself again.
Although the second half of the book bogged down a bit with the details of a somewhat cryptic correspondence, the power of the book's insight into a man's final and most deadly challenge more than offset this apparent loss of dramatic focus. I have read few books as good as this one. I almost feel honor bound, myself, to move a whole slew of other books I have reviewed here down a notch in my estimation just to make room for this one.
SWM
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The Fencing Master
The Fencing Master by Arturo Pérez-Reverte (Paperback - June 15 2004)
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