The latest translation in Lawrence Ellsworth’s acclaimed new series of Alexandre Dumas’ greatest adventures is Blood Royal, the second half of what Dumas originally published as Twenty Years After. In this volume, all the plots and schemes set up in the previous novel come to dramatic fruition in the kind of exciting thrill ride Dumas is famous for – while at the same time introducing the characters and themes that form the foundation of the rest of the series, leading to its great climax in The Man in the Iron Mask.
In Blood Royal, the Four Musketeers all venture to England on parallel missions to save King Charles I, pursued by the murderous and vengeful Mordaunt, the son of Milady de Winter, the great villain of The Three Musketeers. Despite all his experience, d’Artagnan is repeatedly foiled by the much-younger Mordaunt, who erupts out of the past to embody the strengths of audacity and cunning that were once d’Artagnan’s hallmarks. Mordaunt has corrupted those youthful strengths, and the older d’Artagnan is no match for him until he is able to pull his former team together again. To do this, d’Artagnan will have to become a true leader of men, leading not just by example, but also by foresight, persuasion, and compromise. Only then can the team of Athos, Porthos, and Aramis be reformed in all its might to defeat the specter of their past.
Blood Royal is unmatched in Dumas’ oeuvre in its depictions of his most famous and beloved characters and is an unforgettable saga of swordplay, suspense, revenge, and ultimate triumph.
I read this book way back in my college years, and I admit I was somewhat disappointed because I wanted more of the young musketeers. But now, forty years later, I “get it”. Our old friends, older and a bit embittered (or at least, d’Artagnan is) initially found themselves on opposite sides of the political fence (in Twenty Years After, the first part of this set). But friendship vanquished misplaced duty, and d’Artagnan and Porthos joined Athos and Aramis in attempt to rescue the English King Charles I from execution. Of course, to do so would have altered the course of history and that’s not Dumas’ aim. I love the way he melded his characters into history and enriched the story without sacrificing veracity. Our heroes are constantly foiled by the treacherous and terrifying Mordaunt, son of Milady, who almost proves their undoing.
Because this is part of a million-word serial written for Le Siècle, the story does not end here but goes on to finish the Frondeur revolution against Cardinal Mazarin, where again our friends play a critical part. The Narrator John Lee did a perfect job delivering the dialogue of our characters. I absolutely loved his Porthos! I dare say, listening to Dumas with the right narrator is even better than reading him.