Ce deuxième volume d'une trilogie de science-fiction/fantasy
inspirée de celle des Trois mousquetaires
fait suite à The Phoenix
Guards. Il raconte les nouvelles aventures des quatre
héros déjà rencontrés dans le premier
livre (les "500 ans après" ne s'expliquant que
parce que, dans le monde décrit, les hommes vivent quelque
Le roman se déroule durant les quelques jours d'une crise
qui s'achève par l'effondrement de l'Empire: ambitions,
rivalités, complots, dans un contexte de crise économique
et de déliquescence du pouvoir impérial. Le grand
seigneur - et sorcier - Adron cherche, en utilisant une magie
interdite, à renverser l'Empereur, personnage velléitaire
et sans envergure. Le récit a beaucoup de souffle et constitue
un excellent roman de "fantasy".
Le parallèle avec Vingt ans après tient
essentiellement aux quatre héros, et surtout à
Khaavren/d'Artagnan, capitaine des gardes de l'Empereur. Quelque
peu vieilli et assagi par rapport à ses premières
aventures, celui-ci présente un mélange de désenchantement,
d'ambitions déçues, de sens du devoir et d'indéfectible
fidélité dans la droite ligne de d'Artagnan. Les
autres "mousquetaires" sont également bien rendus,
mais jouent un rôle plus effacé.
Autre similitude: les quatre semblent un moment se trouver dans
des camps adverses, deux d'entre eux étant liés
à l'Empereur et les deux autres penchant pour Adron. Très bon livre, donc, mais plus éloigné
de son "modèle" que le précédent.
La trilogie se poursuit avec The Viscount of Adrilankha.
Extrait du chapitre 2 Wich Treats of an Old Friend,
And His Conversations with Three Acquaintances from the Past
To those familiar with our earlier history, it should come
as no surprise that the ensign to whom we have just referred
is none other than Khaavren, who has now passed his six hundredth
year - that is to say, he has achieved an age at which the energy
of youth is lost, but is replaced by a calmness that comes with
knowing one's position. In Khaavren's case, his position was
at His Majesty's door - or, rather, at the door of whatever room
His Majesty happened to occupy - and the centuries of waiting
there, and making reports to his superiors, and making campaigns
against enemies of one sort or another, had, to all appearances,
entirely sapped the energy that had been the particular mark
of his youth.
Where he had been wont to make wry observations and loyal outbursts,
now he kept his observations to himself, and relegated his outbursts
to those occasions when his duties required it (and, as a good
officer, his duties seldom required outbursts). Where he had
been quick to bring hand to sword upon any real or imagined slight,
now he was more likely to chuckle, shake his head, and pass on.
And yet, should anyone be foolish enough to insist on playing,
there were, in the Empire, few with whom it would be a more dangerous
pastime. Khaavren's wrist was as strong and supple as ever, his
eyes were as sure, and his body as limber. If he had lost, perhaps,
the rash exuberance of youth, he had gained far more in his knowledge
of the science and art of defense.
As to appearances, the changes were fewer. The Khaavren of five
hundred years before would, upon meeting the Khaavren of this
day, have thought he was looking into a glass, were it not for
a slight thinning of both face and figure, brought on by constant
exercise, and a few faint lines on his forehead, brought on by
responsibility - the implacable foe of all lighthearted natures.
Yet he took this responsibility gladly, for it was a mark of
his character as it had emerged over centuries that he took great
care and pride in carrying out his duties merely because he found
he was good at them - that is, he no longer saw the service as
a means to glory and accomplishment; rather he now saw it as
an end in itself, and as his prospects for tomorrow faded, so
did his resolve strengthen to perform to the very best of his
ability. Whereas five hundred years before his motto had been, "Let there be no limit to my ambition," now his motto
was, "Let my ambition carry me to the limit," which
subtle change in emphasis, as we can see, bespeaks worlds of
change in character.