For all the author’s customary elegance, this is one of the weaker novels in the series.


The fourth in Pérez-Reverte’s series of five historicals about the Spanish Captain Alatriste (The Sun Over Breda, 2007, etc.) is long on ambiance but short on plot.

It’s 1626 and Captain Alatriste and Íñigo Balboa are arriving back in Spain after fighting in Flanders. Alatriste is now middle-aged, still laconic and increasingly world-weary, but as deadly as ever in battle. Balboa has come of age and is a practiced swordsman himself, thanks to Alatriste’s tutelage. The Captain has been his surrogate father since his own father died on the battlefield. On reaching Seville, Alatriste receives a new assignment. The treasure fleet, bringing riches from the New World, is expected very soon. One galleon is carrying gold ingots in secret; the property of the Treasury is being unlawfully diverted. The court has gotten wind of the scheme, however; Alatriste must recruit a band of ruffians to retrieve the loot. That assault on the rogue galleon does not come until the end. In the interim the author shows us a corrupt society, awash in money, on “a slow road to nowhere.” Spain, heedless of its soldiers’ sacrifices, is “rarely a mother and more often a wicked stepmother.” Yet Alatriste and his young disciple are themselves incorruptible, believing in honor and unwavering allegiance to the king, a tension at the heart of the story. Balboa is also in love, bewitched by his contemporary Angélica, maid of honor to the Queen, a love which almost costs him his life during a dangerous nocturnal tryst. That scene, and another in which Alatriste scares a corrupt merchant half to death, constitute the only action before the climax, and it’s not enough. Just as disappointing is the author’s refusal to penetrate the “personal wilderness” of the brooding Alatriste, a failure that is not disguised by the quirky charm of the interpolated snatches of verse, some of them from the celebrated playwright Lope de Vega.

For all the author’s customary elegance, this is one of the weaker novels in the series.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-399-15510-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2008

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.


Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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