The sun almost rises....

Vaux-le-Vicomte, the setting for much of The Sun King rises
The Sun King rises by Yves Jego and Denis Lepee (both French politicians) has much to recommend it. It's an adventure thriller set during the reign of the young King Louis XIV. Cardinal Mazarin is on his deathbed, and the young King is finally about to reign fully in his own right. Tensions rise when a set of documents belonging to Mazarin, and vital to the future of France are stolen and then lost by the burglars. The documents accidentally fall into the hands of the young actor and secretary to Moliere, Gabriel Pontbriand, who turns out to have an unexpectedly personal connection with the documents. But with Mazarin's agents close on his tail, can he uncover the secrets that lurk within his own family, and fulfil the destiny he never knew he had?

Heavily influenced by Alexandre Dumas senior, this is in many ways a really good read. The story opens convincingly enough, there's enough sword play to keep anyone brought up on The flashing blade happy, and the historical background is well filled in. The dialogue is wooden - I suspect it wasn't that brilliant in the original French, and the translation hasn't brought it to life, but it looks as though it's going to be a fun read. But then it all starts to go a bit wrong...Some of the documents offer proof that Mazarin is Louis XIV's real father - Great, I think, this is going to be 3 Musketeers with a bit of conspiracy thrown in - Wrong! Next set of documents show that Mazarin was defrauding France big-time - Great, I think, financial irregularities, very fitting for the 21st century, this is going to be a smashing tale of how the little guy (Pontbriand) manages to get the money out of the baddies, and helps make France great - Wrong! Third set of documents (by now I'm finding it tedious too) are a direct link to the Templars (boring!) and a mysterious 5th Gospel, which is set to influence the history of the world, but only if you can put together a weird concoction of herbs, splash it all over, and perform some strange rite by the light of the silvery moon. At this point I nearly gave up. I kept reading in the pure hope that it would improve - it didn't.

If only the authors had gone down one of the more factual paths, it could still have been a decent enough read. As it was the Templars' story was just plain daft, even the story of how the so-called 5th gospel was written was so silly that anyone with a very basic knowledge of scripture would know it was completely implausible, and the ending with the hero sloping off to America to plant the dream of revolution there was just plain laughable. It's a decent enough holiday read, but you certainly wouldn't want to read it again, or necessarily read anything else by these authors either. At the end of the book I felt like shaking the authors, it could have been so good - the historical detail was good, the background was beautifully painted, I loved many of the characters, why oh why oh why did they have to go in for such a silly plot twist?


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