Sunday, May 3, 2009

Book Review: Twenty Years After by Alexandre Dumas

It's 20 years after the adventures of The Three Musketeers. Our four intrepid heroes have been spending their years achieving glory after glory, victory after victory, and, of course, constantly visiting and supporting one another.

Okay, I'm lying.

In actuality, they haven't seen each other at all from the end of Musketeers to the beginning of Twenty Years. D'Artagnan is stagnating as a lieutenant in the Musketeers. Porthos is fighting a losing battle to be accepted by his old-nobility peers. Aramis, the priestly soldier, is now a soldierly priest who is dissatisfied with his lot. Athos alone seems content, finding a new lease on life through his son.

And this is the magic of Twenty Years After. I won't go into the intricacies of the plot: the adventures, the loyalties, the many prison escapes. The real draw, for me, is watching these beloved characters mature and age. Their strengths and follies are both more noticable when they are away from each other. Their reunion is a thing of beauty as they relearn how to relate to each other and rediscover their strength as a quartet.

Only together are they an unstoppable force, with each member providing their own unique skills and acting as a balance to the others. Athos with his quiet leadership and wisdom is an important check on Aramis's self-interest and cunning. D'Artagnan's drive and imagination spur the others to decisive action. Porthos's brute strength and simple honesty get things done and lets the others experience emotion more freely. Aramis's connections and worldy mind is an important source of protection not provided by the almost naive loyalty of the others, Athos especially.

Reading about their new set of adventures and their struggles as they face the spectres of their past and the threat of the future was highly, highly enjoyable. All the more because the last book in the series, The Man In The Iron Mask, makes me cry like a little girl.

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