Ah, how we associate with our heroic story heroes…
Okay, see if you can stick with me here. First, we have the famous Three Musketeers, with the youthful heroes d’Artagnan, Athos, Porthos and Aramis. Then we have Twenty Years After, which looks at them in late middle age, where these allies of youth find themselves split two against two on matters of royalty (as well as pitted against an evil from their pasts). It is a bittersweet story about growing older, cooler, and more thoughtful.
Then, we have the series of three books, The Vicomte of Bragelonne, Ten Years Later, and Louise de la Vallière, which form a trilogy of their own, but sometimes come collected (sorta) as Ten Years Later. And after this, The Man in the Iron Mask. So its very confusing, this publishing schedule that has come down through time.
Anyway, with Vicomte (this is a reference to Athos’ son, who is hardly in the first novel), we have a very bitter d’Artagnan who realizes that the days of his youth, of supporting Louis XIII (and Anne of Austria), and pulling the Cardinal’s pointy beard, it’s all over. Cardinal Mazarin (whom d’Artagnan supported and was neglected by) has died. XIII has been replaced by XIV, and the new model, like all upgrades, is nothing like the older version. He’s weak and timid and pretty pointless. In disgust, our aging hero resigns.
So what is he to do? Well, there is Charles II who has come begging his brother XIV for funds or blades to support his bid to reclaim his English throne. d’Artagnan considers this. Not only is it the right thing to do, but perhaps he can make some gold at it, too. What he doesn’t know is that another of his old friends has been drawn to this same act of charity.
And that’s only two of the four allies. What of the other two? All I can say is that when they do show up, there is a mixture of high comedy and low treachery. The splits we see from Twenty Years Later are still there, and in places, widening.
I really liked this book. It was exciting and fun, with good dashes of action and intrigue and excitement. When d’Artagnan finds that he’s been outfoxed, the news delivered by a lackey, how fitting it it that our old hotheaded friend bashes the scoundrel in the nose (something we’ve all wished to do at some point). In the end, there is a neat move by the bad guy and hints of more to come. I’m burrowing into Ten Years Later now and will post a dispatch upon conclusion.
One thing about getting old: with books like this and The Fencing Master, at least I’m not doing it alone.