Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Man in the Iron Mask - Alexander Dumas

This is the third and final book of the Musketeers Trilogy. Unfortunately I did not read the second book in the series so that may have tempered my comprehension of all of the events as they unfolded in this epic tale. Here is the first warning – this is NOT the movie… nowhere close, so if you are looking for that story, it’s not here. Second, the language in this can get a bit tedious, particularly the names, as everyone is called by different names though out the book (their musketeer name, their title, their real name, other names, etc) this makes it a bit hard to follow if you don’t catch on right from the beginning who is who and what all they may be called. Third warning – this is not a happy book, this is the final act of the musketeer saga, and when I say final, I mean it.

The story itself is very involving, especially if you already know and love our Musketeers. Aramis has a plan that involves swapping out the current king on the throne for his twin brother… his plans do not go well for him and the rest of the book involves the aftermath of this failed plot. As Aramis and Porthos run from the now very angry king, d’Artagnan struggles in his relationship with his friends and the king he now serves as the head of the Musketeers. Meanwhile Athos is suffering from his son – Raoul’s decision to run from the pain he feels over love lost, and join the army fighting in Africa.

Our four musketeers are getting on in the years, as are their servants. They are no longer the leap into battle, brash youths of the previous novels. They have grown and are now calculating, loyal, and honorable, their friendships are tested and their loyalty to the crown and country is put on the line. There is a tremendous amount of pain in this book, and death is around every corner. I won’t say that this was a favorite of mine, even though people love the ending and say that they cried when they read it. I sort of felt let down, that the musketeers should go out on such a huge failure (the man in the iron mask– only sits on the throne for an evening, then we never hear from him again, he is in no way a major character, he is only a catalyst for future events.) Though they fought bravely, I would really have liked for them to have truly won their last endeavor together.

In all I am glad I read this book, but was often frustrated by the episodic nature of the writing which at times made if very hard to follow. I also was a bit disappointed in the amount of time spent on characters that seemed to have little purpose to the forward progression of the story. In the end, I would have to say… I liked the movie better, it was just more fun and really felt like the musketeers that I knew and loved rather than the individuals who were in this book. Only Porthos truly retained his nature from the first several books. Still, I would advise any lover of literature to give this book a chance. Perhaps a different translation would be better advised than this one.

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