Anyone who knows me, my writing, and/or follows the blog knows I’m a big Three Musketeers/Alexandre Dumas fan. Last year I finished off The Count of Monte Cristo and this year I decided to dive a little deeper into Dumas’ vault and picked up The Forty-Five Guardsmen which takes place during the Wars of Religion in France during King Henry III’s reign. Along with it being a Dumas adventure novel, this title interested me since the swashbuckler novel I’m working on (almost done!!) also involved the Forty-Five Guardsmen, and I wanted to see how Dumas handled the unit.
For those wondering, the Forty-Five Guardsmen were the king’s personal body guard, most were Gascons, so they were almost like a beta version of the Musketeers in some ways.
Anyways, I picked up The Forty-Five Guardsmen in ebook form, an illustrated version. I want to talk about the book on two fronts — one, Dumas’ story and two, the publishing issues with this version.
First up, we’ll start with Dumas’ story.
It starts with the execution of Salcède and the arrival of who would become the future Forty-Five Guardsmen. We also see the Duc d’Anjou’s disastrous campaign in Flanders, and Henri of Navarre (future King Henry IV of France)’s successful campaign of Cahors, among some other historical events. Even from the company’s inception there is conflict among the ranks which never really gets settled out in the book. Henri of Navarre’s campaign was a great piece of writing and illustrated the brilliance of Henri’s person and Dumas’s writing, but that portion of the book felt like it didn’t really have anything to do with the rest of the book.
Character wise we have the Comte de Bouchard who is the youngest of the d’Anjou clan and is utterly depressed in the book. He’s also a very competent character when not feeling bad about himself and life. He falls in love with the mysterious woman Diana, who is accompanied by her manservant Remy, but Diana isn’t interested in the count. She has just one thing on her mind — revenge. Next to Diana, by far the most interesting of the characters in this story is Chicot the Jester, who was presumed dead by some incident in one of the previous books, but returns to help King Henri III. Chicot acts as a messenger for the king, is present when Henri of Navarre takes Cahors, and is a very worldly, competent and dangerous agent for Henri III. Not bad for a jester, eh?
And as the case with Dumas books there’s plenty of intrigue, a few sword fights, and at least one character hopelessly in love
But the book ends, suddenly, and left me with the feeling that I was left hanging or the book was incomplete. I mean, you have a book entitled The Forty-Five Guardsmen yet there seemed to be very little of them in the novel, plus it didn’t include the guardsmen’s biggest historical moment — the assassination of the Duc and Cardinal de Guise. It felt… weird. A little empty. So I did a little more digging and found another reviewer who says this is just volume 1 of two volumes. Alas, I can’t find volume 2 anywhere. The Valois series goes as such: Queen Margot (Margaret de Valois), Chicot the Jester, and the two volumes of The Forty-Five Guardsmen. So, apparently I read just the first volume and will need to track down the second volume at some point. Amazon has failed me (a first) in this regards).
What also makes this two-volume theory a little suspect is the fact that at the end of the book is a quick historical summary of what happens in France and to the characters. Why spoil book two?
Edit: Found Book II. Thanks, Kate.
It’s a good book, but not Dumas’ best. Maybe I’d sing a different tune if I knew to read the story in order.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about the formatting issues. The layout and format of this ebook is an absolute horror show. The chapters run into each other, meaning that new chapters don’t start on their own page like they should. Conversations between characters are also confusing since quotes from two different characters sometimes also appear in the same paragraph. Basically, any and every formatting issue that can happen in an ebook happens in this version. It’s very obvious that whoever published this version doesn’t care about the work or the story and are just trying to make a quick buck off Dumas’ work. Either that, or they’re really incompetent at ebook formatting. Yikes.
The only good part of this version is that it has the original illustrations, which are pretty awesome.
Overall, I give the Dumas’ story three stars and the formatting two stars. If you want to read this book, I suggest finding a version that has the two volumes together. I’ll read volume 2 at some point… if I can find it.
Edit: Found Book II. Thanks, Kate.