Philip of Spain wants his gold – all of it – and in a plan hatched by his favourite, Count-Duke Olivares, Diego Alatriste and Íñigo Balboa must ride, er, sail to the rescue to recover the gold being smuggled into Spain by the Duke of Medina Sidonia and his friend, the royal secretary, Luis de Alquézar.
Alatriste has to hire a band of ruffians and rogues to… What? Yes, Angélica de Alquézar is in the book. Yes, Íñigo is still hot for the little minx. Hmmm…? Well, of course Gualterio Malatesta pops up, and knowing what is expected of him, he appears just at the right moments. I’m surprised that he isn’t behind every door that Alatriste opens.
Anyway, the attempt to recover the king’s gold turns out to be a trap, but our heroes are triumphant and even the king himself publicly acknowledges Alatriste’s help in improving the royal finances. (That Habsburg lip cost a fortune to maintain.)
Not a bad tale, although some of it (for example, the chapter devoted to some notorious felon who’s executed the next day) was unnecessary padding in a book with a fairly slight plot. This seems to be a trademark of Pérez-Reverte’s writing and may be a consequence of his background as a journalist. However, there’s plenty of swashing and buckling this time, and some nautical hi-jinks.