Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Review: The King's Passport by H. Bedford-Jones

I've previously reviewed H. Bedford-Jones' pastiche of Alexandre Dumas' classic work. Interestingly enough, his other story featuring the classic hero, d'Artagnan, The King's Passport, is not in any way connected with the longer work and is not really a pastiche at all: rather than being set in 1630 and featuring the Dumas version of d'Artagnan (who was born at least a decade before his historical counterpart), the story is set ten years later, in 1640, when d'Artagnan has only recently arrived to Paris and is serving in the Guard.

The story begins with an accidental meeting of three men in a Parisian tavern called Pinecone. Each of them has found refuge from people who are chasing them for various reasons and, with the help of the tavern's owner, they gather together to pretend that they have been spending a long evening enjoying themselves when people come looking for them. The three men are d'Artagnan, a young guardsman, Cyrano de Bergerac, a poetic duellist, and an escaped prisoner from the Bastille. The last one of these is soon mistaken for someone else entirely and the three men get drawn into devious plots designed by Cardinal Richelieu's enemies.

Instead of being a fairly heavy rapier, it was a piece of extremely thin steel; second look showed this steel to be damascened in gold on either side and the fairy-like balance of the weapon was a marvel. - H. Bedford-Jones

Although the story is filled with convenient coincidences, Bedford-Jones manages to keep all the threads in his hands and deliver a fast-paced, exciting story. What makes his fiction better than most is his attention to historical detail: the streets and sights of Paris and its surrounding countryside, for example, are well described, even if there's some repetition to be seen from his Dumas pastiche. The author also mentions d'Artagnan historical brothers who also served the King, but are not usually mentioned in any of the stories, and he indicates good knowledge of the weapons and "pre-uniforms" of the era.

d'Artagnan entered the room. He had donned the scarf of blue and silver, the only vestige of a regular uniform yet known in the Guards; and while he lacked the cassock or cloak of a guardsman, he was proud enough of the uniform scarf. - H. Bedford-Jones

The King's Passport is freely available at Project Gutenberg Australia and although this version is riddled with scanning errors, it is a pretty enjoyable read. Certainly better than most Dumas pastiches, or fanfics as we'd call them in this day and age. Still, Bedford-Jones' D'Artagnan is clearly superior of the two.