The Red Sphinx by Alexandre Dumas – Review

The Red Sphinx

My #YearofDumas continues with this lost sequel to The Three Musketeers: The Red Sphinx. Because this hadn’t been published when I originally read The Three Musketeers, this is my first time reading this particular sequel. I really enjoyed it.

Last month, even though I own a Lawrence Ellsworth translation of The Three Musketeers, I opted for the Richard Pevear translation. The difference between the two styles is fascinating to me, and just goes to show how much can be changed in the feel and flow of a novel by translators. Unfortunately, I cannot speak or read French, so I cannot read these in their original language, which is a shame. While I enjoy the work of both translators, I feel like Pevear’s work is a bit clunky, and while it may be truer to the French in a word-for-word translation, it doesn’t flow as well as Ellsworth’s, and I’m a little sorry I didn’t opt for the Ellsworth translation of Musketeers.

As for the story itself, I have to admit I was a little thrown off by the cover blurb and by the treatment of Cardinal Richelieu. I thought this was going to center more on the actions of the Comte de Moret, but this is much more a story of Richelieu, at least, until the abrupt end of the original manuscript. In The Three Musketeers, he is very much the villain. In The Red Sphinx, Dumas appears to look on the Cardinal with a fonder eye, emphasizing his support of Louis XIII, and his skills as a statesman. I wonder if this reflects a shift in attitude based on age and life experience and is something that I’d like to research more. The Comte de Moret is also more of a side character, albeit an important one. “The Dove”, which is a short epistolary story, which Ellsworth chooses to include as a conclusion to The Red Sphinx, is a series of letters between Isabelle de Lautrec and the Comte. It’s as fitting an end as any, I suppose, since it appears Dumas never finished the book himself.

That abrupt ending and the addition of “The Dove” as the conclusion is what brings me to the 4 star rating instead of 5. The completely different style of storytelling in The Dove compared to the main text is jarring. It doesn’t help that I was not at all interested in the love story between the two characters whose exchange of letters we read. The other issue I had, and it’s one I have with all of Dumas, is that there are SO MANY CHARACTERS. I find it difficult to keep everyone straight. Those two criticisms aside, The Red Sphinx is a highly entertaining adventure tale full of intrigue, sword fights, and a fair bit of chaste romance. I think that’s why I love Dumas so much. There is so much joy in the writing. I can’t wait to (re)read more!

~ by Rachel on February 24, 2020.

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