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Book Reviews, Fantasy/Science Fiction, Middle Grade Readers, Mystery/Adventure, Read-Aloud Suggestions

THE LAST MUSKETEER by Stuart Gibbs

by Stuart GibbsThe Last Musketeer is a combination time travel/adventure story.  It begins in the present with 14-year-old Greg Rich and his family arriving in Paris at the invitation of one Michel Dinicoeur.  Monsieur Dinicoeur is an official at the Louvre (a famous art museum in Paris) and had contacted the Rich family–who is in dire financial straits–about acquiring the 17th-century antiques in their possession which had been passed down in their family for generations.

Although Greg’s parents are trying to “spin” this visit to Paris as a family vacation, he is not fooled.  He is also disturbed by the demeanor of Michel Dinicoeur when they finally meet him at a private entrance to the Louvre with the truck containing their family’s (now former) possessions.  That’s why, when he accidentally discovers a diary written by his great-great-grandfather, Jacob Rich, hidden in the desk that–until now–has always been in his bedroom he hides it from Dinicoeur.

Greg’s vague suspicions are proved correct when Dinicoeur causes himself, Greg, and his parents to be catapaulted back through time to medieval Paris.  King Louis XIII is on the throne of France and the Louvre is in the process of being converted from a medieval fortress into a royal palace.  Immediately upon arrival in 17th-century Paris Michel Dinicoeur has the authority to accuse Greg and his parents of treason and attempting to assassinate the king.  Although Greg escapes into the streets of Paris, his parents are thrown into La Mort–the king’s dungeon–and sentenced to death in three days’ time.

Completely out of his element in every way, Greg climbs the wall into the garden of the Cathedrale de Notre Dame and meets another 14-year-old boy, Aramis, one of the individuals destined to be immortalized as one of the Three Musketeers in the novel Alexandre Dumas will write in the 1840s.  After befriending Aramis, Greg also encounters the other two future members of the Musketeers, Athos and Porthos.  In asking for the help of his three new friends to rescue his parents Greg joins the four boys (he takes on the role of the fourth Musketeer, D’Artagnan) into the quartet of honest, stalwart heroes they will eventually become by helping to coin their catchphrase:  “All for one and one for all!”  (Dumas always claimed his stories of the Three Musketeers were based on actual people.)

The pace of the boys’ adventure increases steadily throughout the narrative, ending in a spectacular climax!  Without giving away the ending I WILL say that the book did not the way I expected and I am anxiously awaiting the June 2012 release of the sequel!

As a student of French history, civilization and culture, specializing in 19th-century French feminist art, I am thrilled with the way medieval France leaps off the pages to encompass the reader completely.  I highly recommend this book as a stand-alone adventure story.  It’s also a terrific lead-in to the classic story of The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, or a unit on medieval French history.

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