León Arsenal’s real name is José Antonio Alvaro, but chose to write under a pseudonym simply because when he started writing his career was dramatically different. For many years, León worked as a Marine Pilot. This intensive travelling overseas provided him with plenty of time to be with himself at the gun deck, and the opportunity to convey his thoughts onto a piece of paper. He could then see how this new, unexpected horizon dawned gradually, so he decided to keep both careers strictly separated, and “tug” himself into a new id: León Arsenal. So he keeps at present somehow free-flowing while helping his next project get ripe: the novel for youngsters to which he devotes much of his energy, time and expectations. Because the only thing he expects from writing is, simply and straightforwardly amusing end-readers.

books-are-a-uniquely-portable-magicWe reccomend his “Los malos años” mainly because of its:

  • Historical background: León chose the later or “low” period of Middle Age that our parents studied, which somehow is quite unknown to our generation. Whereas Houses of Trastamara or Alburquerque do not sound that familiar anymore, understanding this period of History helps us understand present times. Moreover, León interprets this political conflict in Castile as the starting point of further Spanish civil wars.


SOMETHING TO REMARK:  the “choral” feature of the novel, that is to say, all characters have the same weight in the story. The absence of a main character adds up originality, which is reflected on the structure by the insertion of a Character Roaster. Providing a list of the people involved in the plot works very well as a reference guide: characters are numerous but bear similar names – i.e. the name of the three kings in the book is Peter-which might have been fashionable at the time.

by Arantza Mendez-Aguirre