Thursday, 21 July 2016

Review: The Escape of the Man in the Iron Mask (D'Artagnan and Cyrano Reconciled, #2) by Paul Féval, fils

Paul Féval, fils' wrote a trilogy known as D'Artagnan and Cyrano Reconciled. The story is set after Alexandre Dumas' Twenty Years After and spans the years between 1649 and 1655. I've previously reviewed the first part of the trilogy and was somewhat annoyed by the uneven plotting. The second part works much better, but takes a serious deviation of the Dumas' original story, introducing a plot with the Man in the Iron Mask much earlier than Dumas did and leading to a vastly different plot, cunningly mixed with actual historical details.

Historically, the story is set in 1651, when Condé, Conti and Longueville are liberated from their prison at Le Havre and soon start another rebellion, with the help of Spain, against the Queen, the young king and Cardinal Mazarin. The story begins three years after the end of the first part, as d'Artagnan and Cyrano return to Paris and get a chance to tell their queen what actually happened and how Cardinal Mazarin cheated her to send both of them away. The queen's bastard child has been imprisoned, his fiance has gone mad and there is trouble arising between the nobility and the cardinal. Our heroes get involved in the uprising by the princes when they go to rescue the queen's son from his prison and happen to also free a certain Man in the Iron Mask - and once his identity is revealed to the princes, they have found a cause for their uprising, claiming that the imprisoned twin of Louis XIV is actually the rightful ruler of France.

The plot works very well this time around and there are no sudden leaps of logic to be found. In fact, the fictional parts of the story are intertwined very well with historical events. I was also very happy to see that d'Artagnan's fiance (Cyrano's cousin) was given a larger part in the story - actually having an integral part in tricking Mazarin at one point - and that she turned out to be more than just a damsel in distress. Similarly strong character continues to be the wily Milady-copycat, Minou, a servant of Cardinal Mazarin, who continuously plots against Cyrano and others.

In addition to details of historical events, Paul Féval inserts a satisfying amount of historical detail of Paris and other locations that the protagonists visit and his French curse words continue to be imaginative. His treatment of his predecessors' work (Dumas and Rostand who wrote about the musketeers and Cyrano de Bergerac) is creative and his story veers from the original tales in many ways. I can already see further deviations looming over the horizon in the last part of the series.