On Christmas Eve, 1800, three men conspire to assassinate Napoleon as he rides by on his way to the theatre. The plot is foiled and Napoleon lives to rule another day – but it’s up to Chief Inspector Roch Miquel to find the culprits. Under pressure from his boss, the famous Minister of Police Fouche, Roch has to weed fact from fiction on a heart-stopping deadline even as the lives of the ones he loves the most are at stake.
This was my first Read-a-thon choice, which generally means I sped through it and actually won’t have much long-term memory of the book. Still: a few impressions that will hopefully guide the curious into deciding whether or not they would choose to read it themselves.
First of all, this is actually a perfect historical fiction read for the Read-a-thon. It’s nicely short, so it can be finished in a speedy amount of time, and the story has enough tension and mystery to help keep those pages turning even later at night, I suspect. Roch is under a lot of pressure as the story progresses, and I really do mean a lot, with his loved ones carted off to jail and his professional expertise called into question even when he doesn’t deserve it.
The story is split between several different viewpoints, although they vary when they appear and generally Roch’s search drives the plot. The beginning of the book is brilliant – I felt immediately drawn into Napoleonic Paris’s dirty streets, fully aware of the hustle and bustle around the Emperor’s path as people jostled to see him. Then, the aftermath of the explosion, which didn’t kill him but did affect many others, was an excellent way to draw readers into the story and keep them wondering about these strange men who so clearly want to kill Napoleon. Not that many people didn’t want to kill Napoleon – but it becomes immediately personal.
Surprisingly, the book even manages to squeeze in a little bit of romance amongst all of this investigating, and some treachery too. It’s very well-rounded with quite a lot going on. I’d definitely recommend For the King as a fast yet absorbing and atmospheric historical read.
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