Sunday, 5 April 2015

Review: Martyr to the Queen by Paul Féval, fils and M. Lassez

In my previous blog entry, I reviewed the first part of Paul Féval and M. Lassez's The Years Between series of novels where they take the characters created by Alexandre Dumas and Edmond Rostand, namely d'Artagnan and Cyrano de Bergerac, and bring them together in a new adventure that takes place in-between Dumas' The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After.

The second novel in the series continues immediately after the first one ended and thus the following review will contain spoilers for those not familiar with the story. If you don't want to be spoiled, you can jump directly to the last paragraph.

In the first novel we got to know the Mysterious Cavalier, aka Cavalier Tancrêde, who is a 16-year-old youth trying to find out the secret of his birth and his rightful place amongst the European nobility. Cyrano and Tancrêde became fast friends while d'Artagnan ended up on the opposite side, capturing the one person who knows Tancrêde's secret in the name of Mazarin - a cunning future cardinal in service of the present cardinal, Richelieu.

The second novel begins with d'Artagnan escorting Duchess de Chevreuse towards the French north coast to set her on a ship that would take her to England. However, Mazarin has managed to enter a seed of doubt into de Chevreuse's mind and she attempts to elude d'Artagnan for long enough to meet him for another discussion. d'Artagnan, however, is not so easily fooled and he ends up hearing the full story and finding out who Cavalier Tancrêde is and that Mazarin may be attempting to soil the Queen of France's reputation to his own advantage.

New characters are introduced to the story as Cyrano falls in love with a pretty neighbour only to soon learn that her brother or lover (their exact relationship remains unclear), Vauselle, is to be his new enemy. In the meanwhile, the Queen is warned that her past may be coming to knock on her door and that she should not give her enemies any more weapons to use against her.

I really cannot say much more about the plot without spoiling it, but let it be said that the groundwork done in the first novel is beginning to pay off and the story is moving ahead very nicely. The city of Paris is drawn into the readers' mind very nicely with many descriptions.

However, the familiar weaknesses in storytelling make a return also, however, and the story is filled with unbelievable coincidences that make you believe that Paris must be a small village of about 50 people for the same people to bump into each other so very often. Additionally, some of the characters seem to keep secrets from their friends only to get them into trouble. Especially the ending could have been avoided altogether if Cyrano had not - for no good reason - kept all that he had found out a secret from Tancrêde. These issues necessitate the reader to suspend their disbelief in order to enjoy the overall story, but I found it very easy indeed, but feel necessary to cut half a point off my rating for this.


P.S. It should be noted that I read the 1929 Finnish translation of the story (and I'm getting slightly annoyed by the translator's inability to find more accurate words to translate, for example, the names of certain items of clothing).