Captain Blood

 The title -- Captain Blood -- already bodes well, but for a pirate-yarn the tale begins in unlikely fashion. The first scene has Peter Blood smoking a pipe and tending his geraniums in the quiet town of Bridgewater. The incongruity continues throughout the novel as Peter Blood, gentleman doctor, is thrust into a considerably different role. All told, however, he'd rather be enjoying the quiet life.
       The setting is the late 17th century, with Monmouth rising up against King James II. Blood is not actively involved, but he is called to tend to one of the wounded -- and promptly arrested for his trouble. Injustice reigns in these times, and Blood suffers greatly for doing his duty. Eventually he is shipped off to the Caribbean and, as a rebel-convict, sold off as a slave.
       Colonel Bishop, of the Barbados Militia, "malevolence plainly written on his enormous yellowish countenance", buys Blood. His medical training serves Blood well, as he becomes valued for his talents (especially considering the incompetence of the other two doctors on the island), but he is still a slave. Colonel Bishop remains an enemy until the end, but to complicate matters Bishop has a niece, Arabella. There is some obvious attraction between Blood and Arabella, but the situation (indeed, the changing situations throughout the book) almost never allow them to be quite on the same page.
       Blood finds freedom -- showing his noble nature even in escape -- and has no alternative but to take up the pirating life. It is a dangerous, difficult life, but Blood is a natural. An honorable pirate, no less, he does what he must while always maintaining a sense of right and wrong.
       Sabatini sends Captain Blood on a variety of adventures -- on his boat, renamed Arabella. Captain Blood joins forces with others -- fellow pirate Captain Levasseur, for example -- and he then even goes into service of the King of France, but these alliances collapse because of the base, mean, and duplicitous actions of those he is forced to rely on. Blood remains true to himself, doing the right things, saving what he can. "He's chivalrous to the point of idiocy", as one of the other characters notes.
       There's grand piracy, clever maneuvering, near misses and broadside hits. There's treasure and politics and a dash of romance. The unjustly treated Blood yearns for justice, and events come full circle, allowing him an opportunity to find it. Being good pays off at the end, while those who are bad do, eventually, get their just deserts.
       It's a fast-paced, rollicking, swashbuckling, fun tome. Some events breeze along too fast, and there are quite a few too many fortuitous coincidences, but overall Sabatini has written a ripping good yarn. He juggles a great deal here, and finds particularly the "romance" between Arabella and Blood difficult to sustain, but many of the set scenes -- the battles and clashes, in particular -- are breathless fun. Captain Blood is a bit too good to be true: he is always the gentleman and certainly no rogue. His confrontations with those that wrong him are, however, particularly well done and effective -- so, for example, with the greedy and wrong-headed M. le Baron de Rivarol.
       Some of the scenes could have been fleshed out more and the characters more deeply drawn. The writing, too, is a bit thin on occasion -- with the occasional florid dashes then sticking out all the more so. Too much of the book reads simply too hurried, but it is a fun read, and a few of the scenes are quite remarkable.
       Certainly recommended for those enjoying high seas adventure and gentlemen-piracy.

Posted by Under The Black Flag on 12:44 π.μ.. Filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0

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