This audio book was a major disappointment. It began well and really drew me in quickly, but around halfway, when it ought to have been picking up speed for the David and Goliath-style grand finale, it just fizzled away into tedium and nonsense and became insufferable. I gave up on it. I have to say I would not have listened for as long as I did were it not for the excellent and talented reading voice of Carrington MacDuffie. Kudos to her!
This is book one in a series and I have no interest in listening to any more. I have no idea why it would even become a series, either, for that matter, but as I said, I did not finish it, so maybe there's something there at the end which gives some sort of reason for the book to go on to a second volume, however weak. I don't care what it is!
Here's one problem with audio books. If a word is unfamiliar to the listener - and this especially applies to names! - or if the word sounds like one you know but is actually a different word, there's no way to tell what word was used or how it was spelled, so I am relying on some research in Google books for the spelling of the character's names. Set in the period of the early days of the French revolution, this novel begins with a small troupe of entertainers being invited to the house of Marquis de Villeduval for a well-paid private performance. Yann Margoza, one of the three in the troupe, counsels against going, but the leader, Topolain insists upon it. He is signing his own death warrant by doing so, because also in attendance is and Count Kalliovski, who shoots Topolain dead by "accident" during his performance of his "bullet proof routine
This is the first thing which ticked me off about the story: I never did learn what it was between Kalliovski and Topolain which led to this. It may be that it was covered in the part I skipped, but I listened to a lot of this and it never came up. Either that or I was so focused on driving at the time it was revealed, that I missed it! Maybe the author kept this for volume two which would have ticked me off even more!
Topolain's death leaves Yann and the dwarf member of the troupe, Têtu (which is actually the French word for 'stubborn') running for their lives because evidently - again, I know not why - the Count is out for them too, and they'll be out for the count if they don't get away. Somehow, out of this, it winds up that Yann, who has started falling for the Marquis's daughter, Sido, ends up going to England. I have no explanation for how this happened. I'd been seeing this woman's name as Çideaux or Sideaux. Maybe Sido is short for Sidonie or maybe it's short for Do-si-do! I don't know!
The count has been loaning large sums of money to the marquis, but he knows he's not going to get it back. What he wants instead is Sido's dowry and eventually he forces the marquis to effectively sell her off in marriage, whereupon he will kill her and keep her fortune. Back then, women were essentially property. In some parts of the world this hasn't changed even today. They had no rights, no vote, no say, and could own nothing. Sido was money int he bank to the trope evil count, and nothing else.
The second thing which ticked me off was that the count is all set to marry Sido, and then suddenly two years are gone and we're with Yann in England. When we get back to France, Sido still isn't married! This made no sense to me, and again no reason was given for it - not in the part I listened to. It was at this point that the quality of the story began a rapid decline, and I lost all interest in it, so I can't speak for what happened after that. I can't recommend this base don my experience of it, despite the MacDuffie voice!