The Last Cavalier

It isn’t every publishing season that one gets to welcome a new book by the author of The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo, and The Man in the Iron Mask. Or, consequently, to lose oneself afresh — for hundreds of headlong pages — in a state that one can only characterize as narrative bliss, borne along on a stream of daring adventures that courses from dishonor to glory, with all sorts of diverting hurdles and obstacles along the way. So let’s just state directly that it is a joy to plunge into this massive volume, a novel that, until the late 1980s, suffered a fate not unlike that of its hero, languishing in prison at the outset of his tale. Indeed, The Last Cavalier was lost for 125 years in the archives of the National Library in Paris until Dumas scholar Claude Schopp stumbled upon it in serial form in an 1869 newspaper. He recognized its sweeping chronicle of the life of Hector, Count de Sainte-Hermine, as filling a gap in the fictional panorama of French history Dumas had constructed in his other novels; that the gap covers the Age of Napoleon only enhances the interest of Hector’s exploits in restoring his family’s honor through death-defying battles with bandits, boa constrictors, and the British at Trafalgar. Not quite complete, but with enough plot and passion for a dozen novels, The Last Cavalier is sheer delight. Translated by Lauren Yoder. –