Friday, November 05, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 83

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as a fantasy author.

by Rafael Sabatini

Scaramouche; a romance of the French revolutionScaramouche is in interesting novel in that in many ways it seems to mirror the works of Alexandre Dumas, specifically the novel The Count of Monte Cristo. Here we have a story set in France at the beginning of the French Revolution. Also, this is a tale of one-man's vengeance against an authority figure who slew a friend. And there's lots of swashbuckling adventure, as well.

Considering the similarities between the two novels, it is not uncommon to compare Andre-Louis Moreau, the protagonist of Scaramouche, with Edmond Dantes of The Count of Monte Cristo. In my opinion, Dantes is the more haunted and more drastic figure, though Moreau might be the better swordsman. Also, Dantes depends much more upon his own resources, whereas Moreau seems to have a bit of serendipity that comes to his rescue from time to time.

That being said, Scaramouche is also a darn fine read. Though Sabatini's plots are not quite as complicated or strong as those of Dumas, his characters are almost as likable and his writing style is more fluid and more easily digestible by modern readers. Also, I would give Sabatini a slight edge when it comes to action scenes; Dumas could write quite well a good sword fight, but for swiftness and pure joy of action, I give a slight nudge to Sabatini.

To be honest, I would like to have read more of this author's work, and so far Scaramouche is the only work of his I've gotten into. At the very least, I'd like to read Sabatini's Captain Blood, though for what it's worth I have seen some of the movie versions.

I've been asked before, what is the title in reference to? Scaramouche is the name of a clown-like figure from Italian commedia dell'arte originally from the 17th Century. The commedia dell'arte was sort of a traveling, artistic acting theater, of which there were many in the 16th through 18th centuries in Europe. The main character in the novel Scaramouche eventually joins such an acting troupe and dons the mask of the comedic figure Scaramouche.

If you love historical fiction, especially swashbuckling adventure fiction, do yourself a favor and read this novel by Rafael Sabatini. You won't come to regret it. And if you're one of those people who is leery of reading the classics, have no fears here. Though Sabatini was writing early in the 20th Century, his prose comes off as pretty modern and easy to read.

Up next: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon


Charles Gramlich said...

I liked Captain blood pretty well. I was intending at one time to get this and read it but I let it slip my mind. This makes a good reminder

Ty Johnston said...

Yeah, I keep meaning to read Captain Blood, plus just about anything else by Sabatini. I've been a huge Dumas fan for a long time, and fellow Dumas fan and writer Steve Goble turned me on to Sabatini a while back. Keep meaning to read more of his work.