Well, it begun quite sharp and lulled-off near the end- That is to say, that this first book in the cluster of installments in the Vicomte De Bragelonne. It is the longest segment in the Dumas’ D’Artagnan series and it encompasses 3 to 4 books. (Depending on the publisher.) The Oxford World’s Classics editions are split into 3; The Vicomte De Bragelonne, which is the one I have finished is then followed by Louise De Vallière and lastly, dramatically, the official D’Artagnan romances closes with the most recognizable, The Man in the Iron Mask. Let me count them all out for you in case my words have tempted you to follow along in this literary quest: Three Musketeers, Twenty-Years After, The Vicomte de Bragelonne, Louise De Vallière, and The Man in the Iron Mask. (The adventure does not have to stop there; you may also wish to pick up Paul Mahalin’s, D’Artagnan King Maker, and The Son of Porthos; no promises on how they match up with the actual writtings of Dumas.)
Let me continue my thoughts previously about the sharpness and equally the lull of, The Vicomte de Bragelonne. Surprisingly, the main actor which the title attributes is seldom seen in the first half; if our dear Raoul does appear it is usually in tears flying about Athos in some sensitive angst or in level-headed noble debate with his peers. But what makes the first half remarkable is that the action presents itself to you immediately. D’Artagnan is fed-up with the empty promises of royalty. (His Captaincy, “the flower of chivalry”, has been his aim since the very first pages of, The Three Musketeers and has been unjustly denied or ignored outright.) At the ripe age of 50 or so, D’Artagnan asserts his resignation from the ranks of the Musketeers to Louis XIV and thus begins plotting as a soldier of fortune in his usual Gascony manner. Athos on the other hand is to begin a quest for another; the exiled king of England, Charles II and his fortune. Athos is honor bound to restore this fledgling monarch at the behest of his father, the executed Charles I. “Remember!” It is a dashing race against General Monk and Lambert- the figure heads of England whom are vying for the vacant throne of the king. Between the two adventures running in parallel with each other, the pages simply melt away. But then almost too suddenly, their two adventures are complete.
We are then introduced, more intimately to a new host of characters, (Surely to play apart in the next chapters and books) Manicamp, Malicorne, Montalais, Louise De Vallière and the affluent son of M. De Buckingham. Between these characters the second half of the book picks up. They are the courtiers of Phillip, Duc de Orléans (With the exception of Buckingham) and are all wrapped up and equally entangled in Monsieur’s marriage to Charles I sister, the jewel, Princess Henrietta.* Here we find the youths caught up in the intrigue of a royal court and its politics; the main focus here being the love interests of M. De Buckingham and Raoul, The Vicomte. And this is where the book ends.
It’s not mixed feelings about this book that I began with the words sharp and lull but simply to explain the contrasting plots found therein. I enjoyed this book, certainly, for its written well and follows well with the others. What it is missing, that I have found in each D’Artagnan book previous is that distinctive flavor that each contributes to the whole. For me, Twenty-Years After had the same flavor of the first half of, The Vicomte De Bragelonne, that is the romp and intrigue that follows a good mission. However, As I moved along in the pages, I felt some sort of reluctance to meet these new rather foppish, unseasoned characters and a slight dismay at the drop in excitment and the second half of the book’s journey into drama. I have faith, however, that Dumas will affect some grand purpose for these youngsters in the upcoming adventure:
*The Charm of Princess Henrietta, a royal Stuart: “…and from her well-stored arsenal issued glances, kindly recognitions, and a thousand other little charming attentions which were intended to strike at long range the gentlemen who formed the escort, the townspeople, the officers…it was wholesale slaughter…By the time she had reached Paris, she had reduced to slavery about a hundred thousand lovers…”