The Man in the Iron Mask continues the adventures of the dauntless heroes of The Three Musketeers - Aramis, Athos, Porthos and d'Artagnan. In old age their swashbuckling ought to have been replaced by a more gentle way of life, but the veteran warriors find themselves at the center of a plot in which both hearts and heads are broken, and the very throne of France is at stake.
Public Domain (P)2014 Naxos AudioBooks
Bill Homewood is a wonderful narrator and has done thrilling versions of books by Alexandre Dumas and Victor Hugo. And his narration here is first-rate. But the text itself is a puzzle. The Man in the Iron Mask is actually part of a much larger novel by Dumas, The Vicomte de Bragelonne. Different editors divide the book up in different ways. The particular version selected for this recording begins incoherently: Aramis is visiting Philippe in the Bastille, but all indications of context have been lopped off the front. For example, the first sentence is: "Since Aramis's singular transformation into a confessor of the order, Baisemeaux was no longer the same man." What order? Who is Baisemeaux? The next sentence goes on to talk about the "the place which Aramis held in the worthy governor's estimation." Governor of what? Is he still talking about Baisemeaux or someone else? The narrator mentions "the turnkey, the same who, on Aramis's first arrival, had shown himself so inquisitive and curious." Wait - this isn't his first visit? Which turnkey? Is Baisemeaux the turnkey? What was he curious about? "In this wise they reached the basement of the Bertaudiere." Um.... OK.... what's the Bertaudiere? And why are they in the basement?
Continued listening will clarify the context, but I found myself irritated by this unnecessarily rocky start. Granted this is a widely available "editor's cut" of the novel, but there ARE other versions that begin in a less confusing way. Naxos usually takes more care in choosing editions of non-English works.
For those who are interested, all parts of the massive Vicomte de Bragelonne have been recorded in an excellent version by Simon Vance.
The only other book in the series I've read is the first one, so perhaps that's why I felt so lost while listening to this. I enjoyed the Marvel Illustrated adaption of this and thought this would be a fun listen. While the writing's vivid and poetic, the story's hard to follow. There are so many characters, so many intrigues, so much that's happening that I had to reverse numerous times just to get a clue about what's going on.
Also, I never got why Philippe would be considered a better king than Louis. This is probably delusion speaking, but it feels like Dumas failed to fully develop his great premise.
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