I have The Three Musketeers to blame for my love of swashbuckling tales of heroism, chivalry and political intrigue. Castell’s novel borrows heavily from Dumas’ classic, with its three muske—greatcoats, but it adds a little bit of magic, a dash of despair and misery, and plenty of hilarious, occasionally poignant dialogue. The result is a memorable opening chapter to an ambitious tale I look forward to exploring further.
Falcio val Mond is the First Cantor of the Greatcoats, the leader of a band of warriors meant to impose the King’s justice and hold the people of his realm to higher standards of justice. Only, the King is dead, his head rotting on a spike somewhere, and the Greatcoats are disbanded and loathed by all. I would not blame you if you thought, “Hey! That Falcio fella sure ain’t very good at his job.” I beg your pardon, but he is – you don’t know the half of it, and I am not about to explain it, that’d spoil the surprise! Falcio also happens to be the focalizer of the entire novel, and as the book progresses, both his present and past show us that Falcio is not to be fucked with. Why, oh why, do folks continue to insist that they must fuck with Falcio?
The prose isn’t the kind that’ll make your head spin with the ingenuity of its turns of phrase and complex figurative language – what it is offers plenty of thrills due to memorable sword-buckling, rapier-wielding, arrow-flying action. The other element that makes Castell’s prose memorable is the dialogue, especially between lead characters Falcio, Brasti and Kest. It is crackling, and a constant source of amusement.
I’m fond of the characters – even the King, whose softness ultimately led to his death, I found myself liking. A minor character, the torturer, deserves commendation – Castell did something interesting there, and though I’ll save you the details, this is a character worth looking out for.
A very solid work on the audiobook by Joe Jameson – at almost thirteen hours, you need a narrator who knows what he’s doing and Jameson is just such a one. He’s got range, manages to give virtually all the cast unique and memorable voices. His voice grips you and doesn’t let go. I honestly couldn’t get enough of him, I must’ve listened through the book in two or three days. Apparently Jameson also does the Broken Empire audiobooks – might be that I’ve found myself a new narrator to look out for!
Five stars for the narration, four stars for the novel itself – I think I'll bump this down to four stars despite my original rating of it - time gives a bit of perspective on that account, at least. What I didn't necessarily mind at the time of listening to this, I now see as a lost opportunity - the worldbuilding leaves something to desire, and when I think of sections of the book, I come up blank.
You'll enjoy this if:
- You love the Three Musketeers;
- You're looking for adventure novels which tap into that delightful "fun dialogue + great action" combo;
- You're prone to walking around with the heads of your mortal enemies in sacks without remembering how those heads came to be in said sacks;
- And more! Prob'ly.