THE KING'S GOLD, by Arturo Perez-Reverte

 4/series, translated from the Spanish. Few historical novels have a more evocative tone than this series by Arturo Perez-Reverte. Set in 17th century Spain, at the height of its New World gold-fueled powers, just before it began that long, slow slide into obscurity. That is was its own fault made it all the more compelling: you could safely say that the concentration of wealth and power, fueled by short-sighted greed, vicious fanaticism, and a ruling class oblivious to the effects of its own avarice, ruined Spain. Captain Alatriste, soldier and swordsman, has returned with his young servant Inigo from the endless, bloody war in Flanders, and in short order is inveigled into leading an assault on a ship from the annual plate fleet which brings literally mountains of gold from the New World. The story is not the novel; in this case, it's how the story is written, the recounting of it in the words of the young Inigo, the poetry of Spain, the character of Spain, all in a seamless whole. A 5. You could teach writing from this book alone. Do yourself a favor, and read them all in order, and try this author's stand-alones, both historical and contemporary.