The Three Musketeers

This 1844 novel by Alexandre Dumas, set in the early 17th century, is one of those books that I knew a little something about just from osmosis: France, swordplay, plots, All for One and One for All. The story is, in some senses, very much what I expected, but it also took me by surprise.

The novel’s main character is actually not a musketeer, although he aspires to be one and really might as well be one, given how much time he spends with them, rather than with his own company. d’Artangan has come to Paris with an introductory letter to Tréville,  the commander of the musketeers, but it gets stolen along the way. However, even without the letter, Tréville is good enough to recommend d’Artangan for a place in a training academy with the idea that he can later become a musketeer.

In the meantime, d’Artangan befriends Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, three of the king’s musketeers. The four become great friends and near-constant companions. This is one area where the book took me by surprise. These musketeers are not exactly noble servants of the king. They spend most of their time getting into duels, running up gambling debts, drinking, and carousing. They’re, in a word, troublemakers. But they are the king’s men, and that makes them good. It’s certainly better than serving the Cardinal, although the reasons for that are never clear to me, but I blame my lack of knowledge of the history for that. I just went with it for the sake of the book.

Anyway, after many chapters of running up debts and getting out of them, drinking and sobering up, and getting into fights but winning them without serious injury, d’Artangan’s landlord’s wife, Constance Bonacieux, is kidnapped. d’Artangan promises to help, and so the plot begins in earnest.

The story behind the kidnapping takes several turns, which I won’t get into—I’m not sure I could trace them all if I wanted to. Eventually, the story lands on a woman named Milady de Winter. She’s one of those wonderful lady villains of classic literature who just does what she pleases. What she pleases ends up involving poisoning, but still, she’s fun to read about. And d’Artangan, already in love with Constance, also becomes enamored of Milady until he realizes she’s involved with Constance’s kidnapping. So, he woos Milady’s servant and sneaks into her bedroom, pretending to be someone else, once again proving he’s not exactly a good guy. On the side of good, yes, but also terrible.

The continues with schemes, successful and unsuccessful. It’s fun to read, if a little too long and winding. d’Artangan is, to me, one of the least interesting characters in the book. I’d rather have learned more about Athos and Aramis, both of whom have intriguing backstories. A life of Milady would also be good fun. But this is fine for what it is. I don’t know that I loved it enough to read the other d’Artangan books, but maybe.

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12 Responses to The Three Musketeers

  1. curlygeek04 says:

    I’ve just started this book and I’m looking forward to getting into it. I loved Count of Monte Cristo so I’m hoping I’ll like this one as much. Thanks for the review!

    • Teresa says:

      I hope you enjoy it! I felt similarly about Monte Cristo as I did about this. (Good, but a little too long, hard to like the characters.)

  2. This is one of those books that I’ve never had an itch to read, but your review makes me think “maybe?” I’m definitely reading Count of Monte Cristo sometime after 20 Books of Summer is over, though.

  3. Helen says:

    I love Dumas and although The Count of Monte Cristo is my favourite, I have read and enjoyed all of the Musketeer novels too. If you do decide to continue with them, you will learn a lot more about Athos and Aramis!

  4. I love this book beyond measure, but it is definitely true that d’Artagnan is a garbage person and for sure perpetrates a sexual assault and totally deserves any revenge Milady wishes to wreak upon him. My favorite bit is where the Musketeers split up and Athos locks himself in a basement with sausage and booze, and Aramis gets obsessed with writing his thesis. So good.

  5. Hi, Teresa! Though I agree with you about how sexist the Musketeer books are, I can still remember a long, hot summer when I was still too young to appreciate such distinctions, and when I had a great deal of fun reading through the whole series. It’s my next favorite long series to the “Dune” series, for some of the same reasons. You get to live a long time in a special world. The ways in which they are different is interesting too: the “Dune” series looks mainly forward, whereas in the Musketeer books, you get a fair amount of backstory. Even the blockhead Porthos becomes a bit more interesting! I hope you will decide to read the rest of them. It’s a guilty pleasure from an enlightened sexual politics perspective, but it can be fun.

    • Teresa says:

      I love many, many books that offend my feminist sensibilities, and I know what you mean about getting swept up in another world. Tolkien is like that for me. I’d love it if there were more women in LOTR, but I don’t really care when I’m reading it. It’s a place I love spending time.

      • Oh, yes, LOTR as well! And even though I am a purist and tend to prefer the original versions of things, I have a sneaking affection for the way the LOTR movie modernized the women’s roles so that they played a bigger part in the action both attention- and time-wise. It’s a different story with “The Hobbit,” which changed so many things and bored me out of my skull in the 1 1/2 parts of the 3-part sequel I watched–there were more women there, as a sort of sop to Cerberus, I suppose, but I couldn’t watch more than I did without feeling that the original book was best. After all, like Orlando, we’ve all had a young boy’s adventures once! Ha-ha!

  6. daboogieblog says:

    A very enjoyable review not too much into details but also doesn’t let us in the dark and as someone who looks always for a good book to read about I think just found my next read.

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