I’m really at a loss as to how I should review this book. I’m burdened with mixed feelings, both positive and negative. They are equally strong that I’m not sure how I exactly feel about the book. I’ll not venture to state the story or any part of it, for there cannot be many who have not read it, or if not, have watched a movie adaptation. I will only express what I felt for the story, the characters, and the writing.
First I’ll begin with the writing. This is Dumas’s forte. The exhibition of wit and humour coupled with his ability to create an intriguing tale, keeping the reader in suspense as to what would unfold, is amazing. Over and over he has displayed his mastery in writing, making him one of the widely read and popular French Classicists. Here too was no exception. There was wit, humour, and intrigue which held the reader’s attention and interest.
The story is a mixture of fiction with an actual historical account of the events that unfolded in the court of Louise XIII of France, and in England, focusing on George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, at the time of siege la Rochelle. The roles played by France and England in this siege, and the power struggle between these two great enemies (at the time) divided by religion are well portrayed. This allowed the reader to gain a good insight as to the history while enjoying the fictitious story. All these inclusions made the book an interesting read and a quick page-turner.
Now to the characters, and this is where I fell out with the book. However, to do justice to Dumas, I will admit that though some characters had been presented with favour, others have been presented neutrally, letting the readers be their judges. The favoured characters, as anybody would guess, are the three musketeers – Athos, Pothos, Aramis, and the young Gascon hero, D’Artagnan. While I accepted D’Artagnan in the favourable light in which he was portrayed, for the most part, I couldn’t do the same for the three musketeers. If Cardinal Richelieu, Comte de Rochefort, and cardinal’s guards were bad, the actions of the defending King’s musketeers were equally bad. Though the author tried his best to justify them, he utterly failed before my tribunal. The only favoured character that Dumas and I could fully agree on was Madame Bonacieux, the truly loyal servant of the persecuted Anne of Austria, the Queen of France.
Surprisingly, however, my interest was piqued and held by those characters Dumas has portrayed neutrally. Cardinal Richelieu is one. Though I wouldn’t for the life of me sanction his actions and his persecution towards the Queen, he was not despicable as I expected him to be. My Lady De Winter is another story. She is a novelty to me in the history of classics. A heartless, vengeful woman with an evil disposition, she was the only character to rouse my emotions. If I may say so, I despised her with passion and didn’t feel any remorse at her tragic death.
Overall, however, keeping my perceptions of the characters at bay, I was able to enjoy it. As to the big question of whether I would read the sequels, I have to answer with a “no for the time being. I’m not enamoured much with the Musketeers to indulge myself immediately in the sequels.