The Companions of Jehu - Alexandre Dumas 3 - 3.5 stars

_The Companions of Jehu_ is another excellent lesser known Dumas work. Loosely part of a trilogy that covers the Napoleonic wars (the others being _The Whites & the Blues_ and the recently unearthed _The Last Cavalier_) this book stands alone very well. The story starts at a wayside inn where we are introduced to two of our main characters, told of a recent highway robbery, and a duel is promptly proposed. From here the pace of the book rarely slackens.

One of the most interesting aspects of this story is that there is no actual villain. We have the allies of Napoleon on one side (represented audaciously by the protagonist Roland, aka Louis de Montreval) and the royalists on the other side (with their swashbuckling hero Morgan, aka the Baron Charles de Sainte-Hermine...our heroes seem to like noms de guerre in this book), but neither is presented as the “right side”. They both display honour and nobility in equal measure, despite the fact that they are on opposing political sides. Added to these two main characters are Sir John, a travelling Englishman who befriends Roland and promptly falls in love with his sister Amelie (who is herself the secret lover of the royalist Morgan), Roland’s family, the stalwart royalist guerilla leader Georges Cadoudal, and Napoleon himself, Roland’s friend and mentor and here returning from the Egyptian campaign to become First Consul, his first step on the road to empire.

Roland is a melancholy figure, victim to an “ailment” that is only alluded to, but not that hard to suss out, which prompts him to live dangerously and seek a glorious death wherever he can (a death which constantly eludes him, much to his chagrin). Morgan is a consummate gentleman, noble to a fault, who goes so far as to issue an order to his secret society of Royalist highwaymen (the titular Companions of Jehu) that they are to consider the person of Roland sacrosanct since he is the brother of Morgan’s lover. The character of Napoleon is great, by turns noble, capricious and brilliant it’s clear that Dumas enjoyed writing him as a protagonist in the novel. Amelie is a bit of a wet blanket, having little to do but be a tragic heroine and lover to the enemy of her brother.

The story has the usual twists and turns one comes to expect of Dumas, though perhaps with fewer of the subplots and many intertwined story elements of some of his other tales. We of course have the doomed love of Morgan and Amelie; the destined antagonism of Roland and Morgan (something with the former does all he can to stimulate, and the latter all he can to diminish); the machinations and intrigues of Napoleon against both his known and unknown enemies; and the overarching attempts by the Companions of Jehu to overthrow the revolutionary regime and reinstall the Bourbons on the throne.

There are many gripping scenes, daring adventures and near-death experiences. One of the most fascinating moments in the story for me was the Victim’s Ball. There is much contention as to the historicity of these events, but (according to legend at least) these victim’s balls were apparently secret soirees held by the children and survivors of the royalist victims of Madame Guillotine. They had the air of licentious masked balls wherein the participants dressed in the finery of the pre-revolution days and even wore fine scarlet ribbons or threads around their necks, a macabre reminder of the fate of their forbears. It would make an excellent scene in a movie version of the story.

Overall _The Companions of Jehu_ is an excellent swashbuckling adventure. Not quite in the league of _The Three Musketeers_ or _The Count of Monte Cristo_, but if you’re looking for a good fix of Dumas adventure this is a great place to go.