Call me stupid, but I just realized that The Man In The Iron Mask is the third sequel of Three Musketeers, only after I read the first chapter! All this time I thought Iron Mask is the direct sequel of Three Musketeers, while Twenty Years After is the third one (for 20 years seems sooo long for me)… However, when I started this book, I felt as if I were being dropped in the middle of a story, instead of the beginning. So, I consulted the introduction page—which I admit I rarely read before finishing a book, because it often contains spoiler. And I found out that, The Man In The Iron Mask (my copy is 616 pages) is actually the THIRD SECTION of the third sequel of Musketeers series! Once again, it is only the third section of the third sequel, just a small part of a complicated series!
The third novel of Musketeers Series contains of around 2000 pages, thus it is divided into three sections: The Vicomte de Bragelonne, Louise de la Vallièrre, and The Man In The Iron Mask. The question is, why Dumas made it so long? I found out the answer also within the introduction page.
Around the year 1836, newspaper began to benefit from subscription system. And in the effort to maintain the loyalty of subscribers, they published serialized fiction. Alexandre Dumas—just as other authors at that time—saw that as a good opportunity to sell their work. No wonder authors like Charles Dickens and Dumas wrote their works firstly as series, then novel.
The edition I am reading is Wordsworth Classics, and it’s begun with the chapter of ‘A Pair of Old Friends’. However, other (older) editions may be begun with ‘The Prisoner’ which is in the 29th chapter of the newer edition (like mine). The adaptation movie (starring Leonardo di Caprio as King Louis XIV/Phillipe) used the older version. Now I wonder, if I want to read the whole and complete story, what edition of The Vicomte of Bragelonne and Louise de la la Vallièrre should I pick, so that it will not overlap with my Iron Mask edition? Can someone help me?…
|the edition I'm reading, published in 2002|
But, let me go back to my ‘unfortunate’ experience with this book, I suffered at first with the confusion, but I kept on reading. Now I am already half way through, and beginning to grab the meaning, although there are few things that are still ‘dark’ for me, especially with the affair of Madame Chevreuse and Aramis in the beginning of the novel. Another thing that I am still wondering, why the brother and sister in law of King Louis XIV is called by simply Monsieur and Madame by everyone (including the King himself), instead of by title+name (e.g. Prince X, or Princess Z)? However, so far I enjoy the intrigue and plot which Monsieur Dumas presented us.
If you are waiting for many actions from the musketeers, you will be disappointed, because the only one who is still in the musketeers is D’Artagnan, the captain. And at least until the first half, there are not many actions performed. Aramis plays the biggest part with his idea to switch Louis XIV with his twin. Athos showed his honorable and dignity in front of the King in the early chapters, but suddenly disappeared from the main action. As to Porthos, he became absurd and lazy in this novel. After all, the main attraction is indeed in the hand of Louis XIV and Phillipe. I like how Dumas had written deeply about their characters.
Although the title shows about a man in iron mask, I found Phillipe without it when I met him for the first time in the prison. However, the story of his releasing from Bastille and his taking over his brother’s throne appeared in the first half of the book, so the iron mask would surely show up in the second half. I still hope D’Artagnan and his three friends would be reunited for the last time, and I’m a bit curious of how Monsieur Dumas will end this novel. Would the four men still befriend, or were there anyone who must die? If yes, which one? (please don’t spoil if you know the answer!!).
Hopefully I can post my complete review in no time (although frankly speaking, I feel that writing review for this novel would be difficult… great books are often difficult to review!).