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EW review: A female-friendly 'Zorro'

Allende offers new version of masked crusader

By Lisa Schwarzbaum
Entertainment Weekly

Arturo Perez-Reverte
Isabel Allende

(Entertainment Weekly) -- The masked renegade with the foxy nickname has been around since 1919, when pulp writer Johnston McCulley cooked up "The Curse of Capistrano" and introduced the wrong-righting Don Diego de la Vega and his early-19th-century California landscape.

Since then, the bold caballero has been fashioned on screen by Zorros as varied as Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Alain Delon, George Hamilton and the buddy team of Anthony Hopkins and Antonio Banderas.

The charm of Isabel Allende's Zorro lies in her distaff point of view -- the way she takes the time to connect the whole mask thing with the cosmetic challenge of protruding ears. (''It filled the dual purpose of hiding both his identity and those fawnlike appendages.'')

The author plays a little masked peekaboo herself with the identity of the narrator, who speaks glowingly of the headliner -- here the son of a Spanish aristocrat and a female Shoshone warrior, a traveler from Southern California to Barcelona to New Orleans. But Allende's iteration is outspoken in its emphasis on the powerful women in Z's life, as well as on the hero's ease in a multicultural world: His all-but-brother, Bernardo, is an Indian of the Chumash tribe, and he establishes a trusting friendship with a family of Gypsies.

"Zorro" is a light and ripe adventure yarn, a female-friendly variation on an already famous figure of boy-driven pop culture.

EW Grade: B+

'Captain Alatriste,' Arturo Perez-Reverte

Arturo Perez-Reverte's moody, wounded semi-hero in "Captain Alatriste" -- part cantankerous mercenary, part man of honor in a roiling society of pomp, pistols and provocation -- is a whole-cloth invention out of 17th-century Madrid that has led to a 21st-century literary phenomenon.

Thanks to his storytelling panache, the author has become a superstar in his native Spain, while six previous books published in the U.S. (including "The Club Dumas" and "The Queen of the South") have established a Stateside fan club.

The American launch of the Alatriste series, then, introduces a charismatic, complicated leading man who surrounds himself with equally volatile types, both fictional and historical. During the course of his adventures, narrated by the captain's young page, Inigo Balboa, the captain crosses paths with, in no particular order, the Prince of Wales, the painter Velazquez, the legendary Spanish playwright Lope de Vega and the Inquisition.

The clash and dash are thrilling; the swordplay is a bonus.

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