Alexandre Dumas – Twenty Years After

The great success of The Three Musketeers allowed Alexandre Dumas to continue his historical story of seventeenth century France with Twenty Years After (1845). As the title depicts, it takes place approximately twenty years after the events of the first story. The four main characters have taken different paths in life and as one can expect, they join together once again, although Dumas doesn’t make this happen as easy as one might think. With this hidden struggle Dumas illuminates the famous “One for all, All for one” phrase to show that the quartet together is something greater than apart. They complement each other and compensate the different weaknesses.

There are a number of differences between the two books. One is that Dumas delves deeper into the four main characters to give them more depth, in strength and weakness. This does not mean Dumas did not do so in the first book, but the story was more episodic, requiring more time to be spent on the course of events than of a greater characterization. This leads me to the second difference. Twenty Years After is a far more solid story compared to The Three Musketeers which episodes varied in style and quality. This variation is not there in Twenty Years After and this is an improvement. The downside is that some of the episodes of the first book were truly great, while Twenty Years After lacks such peaks.

The story itself follows two historical events in France and England. While the four main characters are woven nicely into the French events they are very much constrained by the English events as Dumas cannot let them play a role that would conflict with history. This diminishes their role although Dumas does his best to give it a dramatic take.
What is very much different is that the characters mainly depend on wit instead of arms. While The Three Musketeers contained many fights, there are relatively few to be found in the sequel. This does not just change the atmosphere of the story but also shows that after twenty years the four characters have changed and grown wiser. They are not crazy daredevils anymore, although their daring has not diminished.

The main weakness of the book is the first quarter. Dumas takes his time to set up the situation of the story and not much exciting happens. This gradually improves until Dumas is done setting the stage. Then the story starts off and the reader is quickly back in the atmosphere and pace of The Three Musketeers.

Twenty Years After is a good sequel to The Three Musketeers. It has certain improvements which also causes some weaknesses, but these are minor. We get a greater feel for the four famous characters which enriches their iconic status but does not change it. Overall the novel is not as good as the first, but the difference is small, mainly caused by much fewer heights. Anyone who enjoyed The Three Musketeers will certainly read this volume as well.

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