(P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"One of the very best of the series, mixing amorous and political intrigue with an élan peculiar to Dumas...this quasi-historical series remains remarkably readable" (The Irish Times, Dublin)
This story seems quaint and very subtle by modern standards.
Large tracts are devoted to the minutiae of French royalty and the surrounding courtiers, where sometimes there is a very long and (impeccably narrated) winding road to reach a climax where one of several gallant knights squeezes one of several ladies-in-waiting hands or some other equally scandalous body part.
I suppose this must have titillated in it's day, but it really doesn't measure up to the excitement of "The 3 Musketeers", "20 Years After" or even "The Man in the Iron Mask", which follows on from this, and is well enough written that you could probably jump from "Le Vicomte de Bragelonne" to "The Man in the Iron Mask" without losing much in the bargain.
I loved the performance by Simon Vance as with all his work. However, this installment is not up to the great level of Dumas' previous three books in the series. A romantic farce rather than a tragedy it just doesn't hold up. Can't wait to get back to his great writing with Man in the Iron Mask.
Please give us all of the Dumas that is available in audio format -- commission new recordings, if necessary. Louise de La Velliere is another fine prequel to The Man in the Iron Mask, even if you have already read that classic. Louise, Raoul, Athos, and many other characters are understood more easily when The Vicompte de Bragilonne, Louise de La Valliere, and The Man in the Iron Mask are taken in the proper order. No wonder Aramis wants to replace Louis on the throne with his twin brother!
As others have said, the velvet and lace romantic intrigues are subpar for Dumas, but the novel as a whole is redeemed by its enlargement and shading of the series' characters, insightful flourishes, and above all by the sublime performance of Simon Vance, who intones new meaning into otherwise hackneyed soap opera.
I was going to take a break from the D'Artagnan series and return to it after listening to something else, but the previous volume really does leave you wanting to continue, and this one does, too. So I'll move on to the Man with the Iron Mask, and then get to my other books on the queue. The story is full of plotting, mostly about the king's shenanigans. It's amazing that they got anything done. The other amazing thing is that by reading a little history of Louis XIV's reign, I found that this is only a bit exaggerated, or maybe not at all. I mean, if you search on Google for "Louis XIV mistress", you get a result on Wikipedia that tells you that there are 11 pages, and an alphabetized list of his mistresses, Louise de la Valliere being his first. Those people who gave mediocre or unenthusiastic reviews of the book and said it is like a soap opera or a cheap romance set in the 17th century are correct in their description, except if you read the history, you'll see that this is an entertaining depiction that seems not so far from reality, and representing only one of Louis XIV's long string of mistresses. I think it is quite entertaining (just wish there was more of D'Artagnan himself - he's the most fun character in these books, of course), and interesting, though I wouldn't say it is a 5-star book. But the reader - Simon Vance - he is 5-star plus! I don't know how he can so smoothly switch voices and accents, and remember which one to do for which character. Clearly this is not an off-the-cuff performance, it took serious thought and preparation, and I delighted in every moment of his reading. He's a gem. It is readers like him that make it worth buying audio books (rather than getting public domain stuff, which is available for classic books like these). Superb. Thank you, Simon Vance.
I love a good book...
Alexandre Dumas continues with this interesting story of love, intrigue, betrayal and conspiracy. As Mel Brooks says, "It's good to be the king."
"Only the Best"
I have read all that books in the series and now go on to The Man in the Iron Mask to complete the story. I have enjoyed every minute of all . Simon Vance tells the story really well and have marked his performance higher than story and overall to stress my point. Again I have had a really good read/listen, just plain the Best of Entertainment.
"The weakest of the series"
A bit too much 'woe is me I'm in love' and not enough swashbuckling in this one!
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