This appears to be the first vampire novel by renowned author Sarah Marques, who perhaps is better known as Sarah Hoyt, Elise Hyatt or Sarah D’Almeida. It is under the latter pseudonym where she has written a whole series of ‘Musketeer’ mysteries. Sword & Blood is her interpretation of the famous Alexandre Dumas story The Three Musketeers. The plot of Sword & Blood largely follows the original Dumas story with the exception that humanity is being overrun by vampires, the church has fallen and Athos has been turned into a vampire. The Musketeers are the only thing that stands between the King of France and humanity succumbing to the vampire horde led by the Cardinal Richelieu and the evil ‘Milady’.
The story begins with the capture of Athos by his wife, Charlotte, in fact, the same wife he had killed ten years before. Athos battles throughout the novel from fully becoming a vampire by denying his thirst for blood and his desire for Charlotte. Athos spends the novel not only physically battling the vampires but, more importantly for the character, battling the inner turmoil of being the very same thing that has always been his and his comrades’ mission to kill.
The young D’Artagan also comes into play as he flees his native Gascony after his parents have been turned so that he can join the Musketeers and exterminate all vampires as revenge. As in the original novel, D’Artagan joins the trio during a particularly difficult fight with the formidable vampire opponent Jussac and it is following this duel that the Athos, Aramis and Porthos come to recognize the tenacity of the young Frenchman.
It is through the scenes involving D’Artagan and Athos where Marques clearly demonstrates her evocative writing style. There is one scene in particular that stands out where D’Artagan is forced to jump into the Seine to escape a group of vampires that have been pursuing him. Marques’s description is so expressive that you can imagine the smell of the murky 17th century river, full of the spoils of the city, as it runs into his nose and mouth, the way D’Artagan’s clothing turns cold and tacky after he escapes the river, and finally his panic at trying to find his way back to his friends. Marques’s form of narrative paints a picture of life at the time but doesn’t over egg the scene with too much description so that nothing is left to the reader’s imagination.
While the characterization is similar the plot doesn’t exactly follow the original in that the Musketeers don’t completely save the day. While Dumas was writing a one off novel, Marques sets up the plot for following novels in the final chapters by revealing Charlotte’s endgame and plan for Athos, as well as the planned rescue of the Queen of France. There is also the fate of the main protagonist, Charlotte, who escapes punishment at the end, which Marques will undoubtedly resolve in future novels.
Another change made to the story is that our vampire fighting heroes chant “to me musketeers, to me of the king”, rather than the infamous “all for one and one for all” which didn’t have the same resonance as the original line. The story ends with Athos quoting the musketeer war cry while realizing his destiny is to the King whether he is a vampire or not.
Is it possible to like a book but not the plot? I really enjoyed Marques’s writing style but I found the story very hard to get into, mainly down to the decision for the main protagonists to be vampires. I don’t believe that the classic tale lent itself to having a paranormal twist. This would be the same as writing Mr Darcy as a shape shifter or having Wuthering Heights set in Unseelie Court. It just doesn’t work for me and while I didn’t like this aspect of the novel I couldn’t fault the author’s writing style.
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