Using rich historical research, this pair of authors has created a handful of representative and memorable main characters and a well-written story that is emotional, thoughtful, and hard to put down.
The book begins in the winter of 1792 and ends with the crowning of Napoleon in 1804. The story revolves around six complex, and multi-dimensional main characters, all drawn to the drama unfolding in Paris:
1. Jean-Luc St. Clair is an idealistic young lawyer from the south of France, eager to make a name for himself through work in support of the revolution.
2. Marie St. Clair is his young wife, anxious to find her own way to contribute to the fight for liberty and justice.
3. Andre Valiere, the son of a nobleman who was executed during the Reign of Terror, has given up his titles and joined the military where he fights alongside revolutionaries.
4. Nicolai Murat is a famous general, influential with those who lead the revolution and secretly hiding a longstanding grudge.
5. Sophie Vincennes is Murat’s widowed niece, living under the protection of her uncle.
6. And Guillaume Lazare, a prominent attorney who embodies the darkest human qualities of evil, jealousy, and vindictiveness.
It’s all here. The grand idealism behind the French Revolution, the blood-thirstiness of the angry crowds, and the well-intentioned but often subverted efforts to build a more just society. There’s a bit of romance. And the vivid terror of the innocent who can be arrested, tried, and executed on a political whim or through the action of someone misusing power for personal reasons. Throughout the novel, again and again we witness the human frailties that too often sabotage our loftiest human goals.
In the afterword, the authors write “In our story, we hope to convey both extremes, the better angels of human nature and the horrifying excesses of violence and extremism.” In my opinion, they have succeeded masterfully!