Review: Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini

213. Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini
Publication: originally published 1922, ebook published 1999
Genre: Adventure, Romance
Rating: Buy it!
Read: October 20-29, 2010
Source: Project Gutenberg (download)
Summary from Amazon:

Peter Blood, a physician and English gentleman, turned pirate out of a rankling sense of injustice. Barely escaping the gallows after his arrest for treating wounded rebels, Blood is enslaved on a Barbados plantation. When he escapes, no ship sailing the Spanish Main is safe from Blood and his men.

This classic adventure is alive with color, romance, and excitement and smoothly comments on the social injustices of slavery, the dangers of intolerance, the power of love, the role of fate, and the ways oppression can drive good men to desperate measures.


I think it was Jenny who said I should read Captain Blood, back when I was asking for more books like The Prisoner of Zenda. Thanks, Jenny! I really liked it.

What I liked: pirates! snarkiness about kings and royalty and nobles and governors! swashbuckling adventures! morals even under duress! a slightly likable female character who gives shit to the hero! the hero who tells people to fuck off except in slightly more gentlemanly ways! tons of action scenes!

What I didn’t like: every other female character being compared to some type of bird. some other things Sabatini said about women. eh.

The author
So, yeah! Basically, it was a really fun, really exciting book, and I very much enjoyed it. The bits about women were unfortunate but nothing TOO terrible, certainly nothing worse than in some other books from the same time period. Plus the romance and high seas adventures and snark about, like, everything regarding the government of everywhere was a lot of fun. I liked how Sabatini was aware that he was doing cliched sort of things but just went on doing them anyway, and he did it really charmingly so I didn’t really mind.

An intelligent observation of the facts of human existence will reveal to shallow-minded folk who sneer at the use of coincidence in the arts of fiction and drama that life itself is little more than a series of coincidences. Open the history of the past at whatsoever page you will, and there you shall find coincidence at work bringing about events that the merest chance might have averted. Indeed, coincidence may be defined as the very tool used by Fate to shape the destinies of men and nations.

And I actually really like Captain Blood himself, too– he was quite a nice hero. Almost an anti-hero (or maybe he WAS an anti-hero?), and the descriptions of his person were both hilarious and swoon-worthy. See:

He had a pleasant, vibrant voice, whose metallic ring was softened and muted by the Irish accent which in all his wanderings he had never lost. It was a voice that could woo seductively and caressingly, or command in such a way as to compel obedience. Indeed, the man’s whole nature was in that voice of his. For the rest of him, he was tall and spare, swarthy of tint as a gipsy, with eyes that were startlingly blue in that dark face and under those level black brows.

Captain Blood? Eh...

Much was made of his blue eyes and black hair, let me tell you. It actually made it hard to picture Errol Flynn as Captain Blood, especially since his hair is so ridiculous in the movie; instead I kept picturing someone who was like a mix of Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock Holmes in the new BBC series) and Jack Davenport (Captain Norrington in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, especially the second one when he’s all drunk and disreputable). Although I do quite like Mr Flynn’s profile, there. What do you think? How do you picture Captain Blood?

Anyway, I also learned quite a few new words, as Sabatini liked his dictionary. As I’ve got an OED in my Kindle I was able to keep up with him, and in fact I’ve decided to go one better and start adding on a new section to my reviews, inspired by Fyrefly‘s own reviews. La:


Mechlin (lace). periwig (see: peruke). cozened. justiciar. inveighed. megrims. affrays. murthered. anathematized. lacunae. prolixity. cupidity. athwart. hawse. vituperative. corselet. portico. execration. decoction. poltroons. invidious.

Click on the link to go to the definition. Next time I’ll try to keep track of the context and location of the words as well, so it’s not just a boring(ish) list of words.

New favorite word: poltroons. -noun 1. a wretched coward; craven. –adjective 2. marked by utter cowardice. Sounds like the sort of thing you’d insult someone with if you were swordfighting across a bunch of tables and ledges and things, eh?


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Other reviews: Whaaaat? No other reviews? For shame! Get to reading this quick so I can add your review here to my link list.

Also I’m sorry I can’t put page numbers, but it’s pretty much impossible with Kindles. I could do locations? Would that be okay?

4 thoughts on “Review: Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini”

  1. Excellent! It’s not like I’m lacking for free Kindle books to read, but books about pirates always take precedence over those without. I’m off to go download now…

    I “solved” the problem of page numbers by just citing the Kindle location number. Not totally satisfactory, I admit.

    Also, hooray for vocab! “Poltroons” is an excellent one, and I like “cupidity” as well. I learned those from Guy Gavriel Kay and Naomi Novik, respectively. 🙂

    1. I was wondering if location numbers would be good enough. I’ve got them in my commonplace book but I didn’t know if people would like them here, too. Although I do feel weird for not having ANY sort of citation– too long in college, I suspect.

      Yay for vocab! I’m really adoring reading classics now, partly because it’s so easy for me to look up words I don’t know! Before I just skipped them, doing that “look at the context” thing but of course that doesn’t work for everything. I like knowing more words now. 😀

  2. Oh, yeah, Sabatini’s not exactly Mr. Rounded Women Characters. But the book was awesome, yes? TRASHY ADVENTURE NOVELS FTW. You are so welcome! You will thank me even more when you read Beau Geste and the following books. Hank and Buddy…oh, you’ll see.

    1. I did appreciate that he didn’t make whats-her-face just another fainting damsel in distress, but she was the ONLY good woman character in there! Sheesh. But yeah, TRASHY ADVENTURE NOVELS FTW! (I’ll have to get on that there Beau Geste soon! Just gotta find it first. :D)

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