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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Captain Blood

Rafael Sabatini

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To purchase Captain Blood

Title: Captain Blood
Author: Rafael Sabatini
Genre: Novel
Written: 1922
Length: 439 pages
Availability: Captain Blood - US
Captain Blood - UK
Captain Blood - Canada
  • His Odyssey
  • The US edition (from The Akadine Press) includes an Introduction by George MacDonald Fraser
  • The entire text of Captain Blood can be found online, including here and at Project Gutenberg
  • Captain Blood was filmed in 1924 by David Smith, with J. Warren Kerrigan in the title role
  • Captain Blood was filmed in 1935 by Michael Curtiz, with Erroll Flynn in the title role, Olivia de Havilland as Arabella, and Basil Rathbone as Captain Levasseur

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Our Assessment:

B+ : fast-paced swashbuckling fun

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The NY Times Book Rev. . 20/8/1922 .
The NY Tribune . 20/8/1922 Isabel Paterson
The Spectator . 9/12/1922 .
TLS . 14/9/1922 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "Captain Blood is the very beau ideal of a pirate." - The New York Times Book Review

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       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.

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Captain Blood: Captain Blood - the 1924 film: Captain Blood - the 1935 film: Reviews: Reviews of the 1935 film, Captain Blood: Rafael Sabatini: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Anglo-Italian author Rafael Sabatini (1875-1950) wrote many popular novels, including Scaramouche and Captain Blood

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