Twenty Years After by Alexandre Dumas

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Twenty Years After is the second of the d’Artagnan Romances by Alexandre Dumas. If you're new to the series, check out my review of The Three Musketeers instead, because this review will include spoilers for what came before.

Portrait of King Louis XIV, age 4. | Lydia Sanders #TwistyMustacheReviews
You see this adorable little cherub? He became the King of France at age four, shortly after this portrait was painted. Our story takes place when he's about ten or eleven and his mother is still running the country on his behalf.


Twenty Years After is set during the childhood reign of Louis XIV. All kinds of political craziness is going on because the Queen annulled the regency council stipulated in her late husband's will. That made her the sole regent on her son's behalf until he came of age--which put her in a position to make additional controversial decisions, like making Cardinal Mazarin her chief minister of state. The book also includes some plot-relevant events from the English civil war.

The story opens when d’Artagnan is about forty years old. He’s never had a promotion since becoming a lieutenant at the end of the last book, which was over twenty years ago. He’s lost contact with all of his friends, and even his love life has come to a standstill! He’s ripe for a midlife crisis.

So D’Artagnan tries to gather together Athos, Porthos, and Aramis to join him on his new mission for the new Cardinal. His job, his life, and even his country are at stake, but more importantly: Can their friendship survive twenty years? People change a lot in that time. Their occupations, personal morality, family life, politics, etc. don’t necessarily align anymore. Can their friendship withstand those sorts of pressures? Will he even be able to find them?

Twenty Years After was originally published in serial form in 1845. The original language is French. I listened to this Librivox recording of an unspecified English translation.

Review of Twenty Years After

Because it’s a continuation of The Three Musketeers, you can expect a lot of the same awesome things, but there are plenty of elements unique to Twenty Years After.


D’Artagnan is less adorable than he was in The Three Musketeers, but that’s because he’s more capable. He’s still just as much of a clever jerk, but fortunately, this book doesn’t have him constantly surrounded by women.

Athos is still hella sexy but in a more mature, sensible way. Now forty-eight years old, he has a new secret in his past, which, though less dark than last time, is awkward and still has to be kept mum.

Porthos & Aramis also have interesting changes to their characters through the twenty-something year gap.

Their servants/former lackeys also get more attention—or maybe I just noticed it more because I could actually remember their names this time.

There are new members of the cast, including new villains.

Queen Anne of Austria, Charles I of England, Oliver Cromwell, Louis XIV, Cardinal Mazarin, the Duc de Beaufort, and other political figures of the time factor into this story with even more prominence than the previous book and their characters are better developed. If you're not familiar with the history, don't look it up yet, because--spoilers!


This book includes a lot of the best stuff of adventure stories:

Executions, jailbreaks, bad haircuts, the next generation, fights to the death, explosions, hostages, kidnapping, court politics, political turmoil, wars, betrayal, revenge, disguises, high-stakes tennis matches, murders, drowning, secret passages, negotiations with emotionally volatile royalty…

Unfortunately, there are no pirates or tree houses, but given the setting, those omissions are acceptable.

A strong subplot livens up the middle of the story, but takes some of the focus off of the main plot, even though it's tied to the main plot. For a while I thought there were pacing issues, but I think that's because I mixed up which plot was the main plot, and which was the subplot. Overall, the plot was even better than The Three Musketeers. The ending of this story is much less abrupt, and that made it more satisfying.

I also love the final lines of the story, but I can't talk about those without spoilers either.


This book brings up the question of vigilante justice. Were the four friends justified in killing Milady de Winter at the end of The Three Musketeers? What physical and moral consequences might they face because of their illegal actions?

Dumas also seems to support at least the idea of a benevolent monarchy, which most modern readers would probably disagree with. But because the issue isn't controversial anymore, at least in places like the U.S., it’s not likely to offend modern readers either.


Dumas still does the thing where a character tells off-screen actions in such a detailed manner that the reader can visualize them as well as any other scene, but less frequently than in The Three Musketeers. For plot reasons, it makes more sense to dramatize the scenes directly. I think that really helped the plot and kept the technique from becoming too conspicuous.

There are also plenty of humorous moments in the story. Like, this, for instance:

There are also still lovely descriptions in the writing.

The translation I read used the word niggardly to describe a character, which at first I thought was related to a racial slur, but it actually isn’t. Word nerdery! That being said, I still don’t recommend using the word unless you want to always have to launch into an explanation of why it has nothing to do with race. It will not be on my next Writing Roundup vocabulary list.

Bottom line

I thoroughly enjoyed Twenty Years After and give it 6/7 twisty mustaches. If you liked The Three Musketeers, you should definitely pick up Twenty Years After.

I look forward to reading The Vicomte de Bragelonne: Ten Years Later, though I’m unsure whether I’ll read it and review it all at once, or read and review each part as I go. If you’ve read it and can recommend one way or the other without spoilers, I would love to hear your advice!

Have you read Twenty Years After? What did you think of it? Leave a comment below or my hairless ghost lemur will haunt your dreams.

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