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Rafael Sabatini

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Rafael Sabatini

Post by Ludmilla » Thu January 15th, 2009, 2:34 pm

Thought Sabatini deserved his own thread. He’s one of my favorite novelists for historical adventure, and I’ve been trying to find and read some of his lesser known (not so readily available) works. Below are my thoughts on my most recent read. I’d love to hear thoughts from others on any of his books.

Book: Bellarion the Fortunate

Time/Place: Italy, 15th Century, 1407-1412

Originally Published: 1926

The story begins in 1407, when Bellarion, of unknown parentage and raised at the convent of Our Lady of Grace of Cigliano, embarks on a journey to Pavia to study Greek after arguing about the nature of goodness and evil with his abbot. It is perhaps telling that Bellarion enjoys reading "The Art of War" by Vegetius Hyginus. However, his course in life -- and ultimately his philosophy -- is irrevocably altered by an encounter with a notorious bandit who deceives the inexperienced Bellarion and implicates him in a crime. Not long after, Bellarion (now on the run from men-at-arms) meets the beautiful Princess Valeria (niece of the regent Theodore of Montferrat) who mistakes him for a messenger sent from men hoping to overthrow her ambitious uncle who has no intention of relinquishing his power to her now of age brother. Bellarion, discerning that she is in over her head, pledges his service to her, whether she wants it or not. As is usual with Sabatini’s leading men and women, Valeria often misunderstands Bellarion’s motives and actions.

Through guile and strategy (he aims where he does not look), Bellarion rises from being a man of no rank to the adopted son of the ducal governor and protector of Milan (Facino Cane) and finally to that of a condottiere of more than some consequence. Bellarion, much to the consternation of his contemporaries, admits that he prefers guile to physical combat. Some readers might perceive Bellarion as a Gary Stu. He is often two steps ahead of everyone else. However, I think his ability to use trickery to outwit his opponents but his preference for using brutal honesty in his personal affairs gives him a degree of complexity.

Bellarion is fictional, but most of the characters he encounters are actual historical figures including Facino Cane and his wife, Beatrice di Tenda (you may remember her from a certain Italian opera), Francesco Bussone (Carmagnola), Theodore II (Marquess of Montferrat), the son of Duke Gian Galeazzo Visconti and his half-brother, Filippo Maria Visconti.

I don't know how fast and loose Sabatini played with history (and he's obviously having some facetious fun with some of these characters, particularly Carmagnola and the destruction of a certain bridge), but the complexity of the times and political intrigues shine through. I'm left with the feeling that Sabatini's treatment of Facino is far kinder than he is now remembered. He’s one of the most interesting and memorable characters in this story. I would recommend this to anyone interested in this period of Italy’s history.

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Post by Volgadon » Thu January 15th, 2009, 4:51 pm

Sabatini is practically my favourite!!!! I am really fond of Bardelys the Magnificient. The protagonist is one of the top rakes and wastrels at Versailles. On a bet he heads south to woo a a girl known for her character and virtue. He becomes entangled in a web of mistaken identity, assasination attempts and a Hugeonot revolt.

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Post by donroc » Thu January 15th, 2009, 6:35 pm

You can find some of his stories on FullBooks.com - Thousands of Full-Text Free Books

Bodo the Apostate, a novel set during the reign of Louis the Pious and end of the Carolingian Empire.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXZthhY6 ... annel_page

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Post by annis » Thu January 15th, 2009, 6:55 pm

There's a useful bibliography of RS's work at

My favourite is probably still "Captain Blood", possibly because I can see Errol Flynn whenever I read it- the ultimate swashbuckler!

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