A new translation of the classic published in 2006.
Reading The Three Musketeers for the first time at my advanced age, particularly this highly acclaimed translation by Richard Pevear, is a bittersweet experience. Bitter, in recognizing how much fun it would have been as a teenager to read about the swordfights (I believe Dumas is credited with the practical invention of "the swashbuckler") and the pursuit of women (anyone who believes all 19th century writers were Victorians needs a refresher course). Sweet in that by the time I read the actual story, I knew many parts of it. It was a thrill to get to the source, finally.
You all know parts of the story - who could not? You have either seen the many films, cartoons, take-offs, spoofs, or abridged versions. From all that media, you know that D'Artagnan, a rural lad from Gascony, makes his way to Paris and falls in with Athos, Porthos and Aramis - all three members of His Royal Majesty's Musketeers (Louis XIII). You might know that they seek engagements with the guards of the cunning, devious, and dangerous Cardinal (Cardinal Richelieu) for both adventure but also in their quest to protect the reputation and physical safety of the Queen (Anne of Austria). That's about where my knowledge ended before reading the book.
Dumas' creates high adventure at every turn and the details of the plot that are unknown to the non-reader are every bit, if not more interesting as those parts appropriated for popular culture. A young man's infatuation with an older, married, and still beautiful woman. A back story for each of the three musketeers that is given the slow reveal. A young queen with a most powerful foreign admirer who takes enormous risks to see her. A conniving diplomat who seeks to control the King by discrediting the Queen. International travel and intrigue. Evil incarnate in the guise of a beautiful temptress who uses her beauty, body, and quick wits to twist men to her will in pursuit of her objectives. A political situation that results in war. Castles and dungeons and torture. Finally, a rivalry that is started at the beginning of the novel and left unresolved until the epilogue. Intertwined plots with just the right amount of historical reality create a terrific story.
Dumas has a couple of remarkable sequences, and without giving away too much, I encourage you to look for the Three Musketeers and D'Artagnan at war and for how the evil Milady escapes imprisonment. In the first scene, Dumas manages to simultaneously demonstrate both the horror and farce of war. In the second, he may well be inventing the modern psychological drama.
The Three Musketeers was a hoot to read (finally), and Richard Pevear's translation is mostly very readable with two notable exceptions. First, putting the notes in the back of the book is very distracting when holding a 700 plus page book in bed - using footnotes on the page in question would have made for much better reading. Second, but much less distracting, was trying to decipher the French curses, currency, and titles - not much to do about that, except study the glossary ahead of reading the book.
This was fun -- I am now going to order "The Count of Monte Cristo" and "The Man in the Iron Mask".