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A Trilogy of Blood

Michael Cummins

Captain Blood: His Odyssey is a well-rounded tale, beginning with Blood's settled domestic life and ending along with his career as a pirate. Along the way we learn how oppression drives men to desperate actions, how fate plays a hand in everyone's life and that love is possibly the greatest power of all. The book, in short, wants for nothing. Its pages abound with adventure, colour, romance and even strong social commentary on the evils of slavery and the danger of intolerance. It ends poetically having tied up all plot lines neatly, leaving a perfectly satisfied reader behind. We need never worry about what happens after, it's not that sort of book. Peter Blood, Medicinae baccalaureus, has saved Port Royale, won his fortune, rank and lady. It is for the above reasons that a sequel, I thought, could only cheapen and make the original into an anti-climax.

In 1930 some eight years after the original made its appearance, Captain Blood Returns was published. The title might mislead somewhat as Returns does not take up from where Odyssey left off but details some of Blood's adventures from the height of his piratical career.

Ten well-sized short stories make up this volume, beginning with The Blank Shot, a story which details Blood's first conscious steps to embarking on a life of piracy. Without a single unnecessary noun, the tales move at a swift pace, captivating ones imagination as they unravel. The ten stories all display Blood's cunning, though subject matter varies considerably in each.

Some are epic swashbuckling tales like The Treasure Ship, others nicely understated dramas of treachery and suspicion like Blood Money and foolhardy behaviour like The Love Story of Jeremy Pitt. While The War Indemnity strikes a balance between swashbuckling and character drama, the two stories which deal with Madame De Coulevain reach a beautiful evocative note through thoughtful dialogue.

If Captain Blood: His Odyssey is the greatest swashbuckling novel ever written, Captain Blood: Returns is truly the greatest swashbuckling put on paper. Each story shows off Sabatini's brilliance with plot, counter plot and plot twist. The book displays the genius of Arthur Conan Doyle in its story development and execution, while full-blooded characters, which might well have once tread history's boards play out the clever dramas to perfection with equally superb dialogue.

Six years later The Fortunes of Captain Blood arrived, this time containing six longer and more developed episodes from the pinnacle of Captain Blood's career as a buccaneer. Alas by now Captain Blood is a little tired, his adventures seem repetitive almost. In some ways Monsieur De Coulevain is relived in The Eloping Hidalga as an ungrateful lover tries to make some gold out of Blood's misfortune though he has just done the lover in question a great favour. Sacrilege tries very hard to be clever but doesn't quite come off, while The Deliverance is the character drama played out too long. Following on from the superlative Captain Blood: His Odyssey and the sublime Captain Blood Returns, The Fortunes of Captain Blood fails to live up to its illustrious predecessors; it feels like one is parting with an old friend, though not on particularly good terms.

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Last updated 29 March 2008. Article copyright 1999 by Micheal Cummins. Illustrations in the public domain. Any concerns or problems about this site, please contact Rimfire.