The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

After nearly 5 years of owning this book, I’ve finally read and it is much different than I expected it to be.  I thought it would be immature, with cheesy characters and overdone swashbuckling/sword fighting. Instead, it is a well written historical fiction set in 17th century France during the French siege of the Protestant stronghold of La Rochelle. The Three Musketeers is filled with political intrigue, mystery, and unforgettable characters.  There’s even MORE despair, chivalry, swordplay, hails of bullets, swooning maidens, and truly an evil Cardinal and a nasty Milady to butt heads against.The Three Musketeers

This is the tale of D’Artagnon, a young Gascon traveling to Paris with three gifts from his father: fifteen crowns, a horse, and a letter of introduction to M. de Treville, a very important person. It is he who commands the king’s musketeers. And she will also fall in love with Constance Bonacieux. The Duke of Buckingham will court Queen Anne of France. Since this can not be said publicly about the feelings of one another, she marries the king of France. Anne gives them some diamond pendants as consolation prize during their trip back to England. The Cardinal, nefarious, is the greatest power in France, even greater than the king. He who is still angry at Anne for having burned his love statements for some time, wants her to get in trouble with her husband. He knows through his spies that Anne gave the Buckingham diamonds. He suggests that the King throw a party and ask Anne to wear the diamonds, she despairs and burst into tears. Madame Bonacieux promises that she will find someone to help retrieve the queen’s pendants in time. This someone turns out to be D’Artagnan, who ended up stumbling over him to get his thanks. He takes his friends, Athos, Porthos and Aramis to England to retrieve the gifts, but one by one is stopped on the road. D’Artagnan goes to London alone and meets the duke.

He finds the pendants, but two are missing. To solve the problem, the Duke blocks any ship from leaving England to ensure that the musketeers do not return to Paris. But D’Artgnan returns to Paris in time to save the queen. Madame Bonacieux is ready to go to meet D’Artagnan, she does not appear and D’Artagnan waits in vain, after he discovers that she has been kidnapped. D`Artagnan goes to the next town with Planchet (his faithful footman) to find out what happened to his friends. He finds Porthos and Aramis in two inns along the way, but both wounded. D`Artagnan meets Athos in another guesthouse and the two friends meet. D’Artagnan discovers that the king is recommending him to become a musketeer. This joy is short lived, however, as all men must somehow earn enough money to equip themselves properly for war. Porthos and Aramis appeal to their lovers, and D’Artagnan sleeps with a noble in exchange for a valuable ring. Athos and he share the money. Friends find themselves well funded and ready for war. The problem is that D’Artagnan slept with Milady, who is an agent of the cardinal. Not only did he sleep with her, but he also discovered her secret: she has a fleur-de-lis marked on the shoulder, the mark of a criminal. She sends two murderers to kill him with some poisoned wine, but he escapes twice. Meanwhile, Athos, Porthos and Aramis listen to the conversation between the cardinal and Milady. She is accused of going to England and persuading someone to murder the Duke of Buckingham. Milady wants D’Artagnan dead.

The musketeers decide to send a footman from Tours, with a warning letter to the queen of the conspiracy against Buckingham, and sends another footman from England about the arrival of Milady. When Milady arrives, she is escorted to a comfortable room in a castle above the cliff. Milady soon corrupts her jailer and convinces him that she is an innocent woman. The jailer releases her and puts her on a ship, and then he stabs the duke to death. Milady embraces to France, and destined to a convent where Constance Bonacieux is hidden. D’Artagnan is very happy with the queen’s word to meet Constance and take her away from the convent. He arrives too late, Milady poisons Constance, and she dies in the arms of D’Artagnan. The four friends trace Milady and bring her to trial, where they hear the lengths of her crimes. The key to it is death. The cardinal asks D’Artagnan, he is afraid that the cardinal will sentence him to death, but the cardinal, knowing that Milady is dead, changes his mind and gives d’Artagnan the position of lieutenant of the Musketeers.

The best character for me was Milady who is the epitome of evil, and might be the best villain or villainess I’ve ever encountered. I was reminded of Cathy Ames from East of Eden – both are pure evil, and both are described more or less as the devil incarnate. Milady is taken to another level of evil, though, because she has a power over men with her beauty and voice like a mythical Siren. The five chapters when she was imprisoned by her brother-in-law were some of the best written chapters I’ve ever read.

I was kind of surprised after reading this that the Musketeers, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, were really just supporting characters in the story, all secondary to the D’Artagnan, Mme. Bonacieux, Cardinal Richelieu and Milady.

Alexandre Dumas has written what I call a true classic. It is a pure satire about all layers of society from the ruling nobility and the Church to the poorest farmer.  Dumas has an impeccable writing style as well. I have to point out how ageless the story is, but the engaging, colorful writing style that so perfectly conveys the scorn and mockery of the ways of life portrayed here makes it a delight to read and doesn’t give away the book’s age at all. The only complaint from me about this book is 700 page length. In my opinion, the story could have been told in about 500 and it would have flowed better and would have been nearly perfect.

My rating : 4.5/5

Most people know the story. At the very least, they know about the story or they can quote that famous line. Probably the most well-known quote from any book in history.

All for one and one for all.

 

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