Sunday, 1 October 2017

Review: Adventures of Monsieur de La Donaree the Musketeer by Ted Anthony Roberts

The readers of this blog know that I always appreciate a good adventure tale, especially if it can be described as a swashbuckler. It is a disappointingly scarcely populated genre these days, but one does tend to find a novel or two every now and then. This time, my attention was drawn to T.A. Robert's Adventures of Monsieur de La Donaree the Musketeer. The author mentions grand-masters like Alexandre Dumas, Rafael Sabatini and Sir Walter Scott in his bio, so taking a look at his work is something that one simply must do.

The hero of the story is Monsieur de la Donaree, who is described as possibly the best swordsman ever to walk the streets of Paris and enter the ranks of King's Musketeers. The very first scene shows him engaging in a duel with a man who is to become one of the main villains of the story, but who, at this point, appears to be a mere randomly encountered bully. Soon afterwards, however, Donaree learns that the duel was intended to end in his death so that he would not attempt to stop the villain when his men kidnap Donaree's beloved and take her away from Paris.

The writing style is playful and Roberts uses an omnipotent narrator to hearken back to the storytellers of old. In the beginning of the novel, he manages it to a degree, but by the halfway point reading becomes more difficult: Roberts forgets that he introduced Donaree's horse with a French name and suddenly begins to call him with an English one, long passages of text feel like they were never given a second look after they were first written, dialogue feels forced and many plot twists are quite inexplicable. That last part, of course, is something that does remind me of earlier writers in the genre, so it may be seen as a homage. And, on top of it all, the text is filled with typos and word confusion (e.g. confident vs. confidant) and simply words that have not been inflected correctly. The writing improves again towards the end of the book, however.

The author has done decent work in his research of the period and it shows in some details in the story. Unfortunately, the knowledge is not always shared in the most fluid way possible: d'Artagnan's home is described in close detail - even describing the fillings of various pillows - and the storyteller's voice then adds that the description was drawn from a specific historical source. Unfortunately, this historical detail also fails at many points. London is described as having a police force, when in reality the city had night and day watch (they did policing duties, but were not called such - in fact, the word 'police' came to be used in its modern sense only in the early 19th century). The story loses even more of its historicity as it progresses and the latter part where Donaree, for example, encounters a descendant of Robin Hood, who uses a two hundred pound bow to fire arrows at a castle wall to create easily climbable ladders, begins to descend more in to the genre of fantasy.

Overall, the novel has potential, but the lack of revision and editing brings it down a few notches. It would be great if the author revisited this novel and fixed up the language to a level that the story deserves. If you are willing to look past the language problems, this is still a story that you can enjoy with several funny and entertaining scenes and plot twists.