The Sun King Rises

Written by Denis Lépée Sue Dyson (trans.) Yves Jégo
Review by Cas Stavert

Orphaned Gabriel de Pontbriand has fled the stifling conformity of the country life his uncle has planned for him for the flesh pots of Paris. Ambitious to become an actor, he has gained a post as Molière’s secretary. But he lives in turbulent times, and one night a batch of mysterious coded documents bearing his father’s signature come into his possession. These are at the heart of a dangerous game of intrigue being played out in the aftermath of the death of Louis XIV’s chief minister, Cardinal Mazarin. Gabriel determines to unravel the mystery…

Unfortunately, Gabriel’s character is never really fleshed out beyond that of naïve country boy, and most of the other characters are mere types, although that may be the fault of the translation. Possibly as a result of this, it took me a while to get into, especially as the protagonist does not appear until page fifty. When I did, it was hard to keep track of everyone – lots of grey men plotting against each other. On the other hand, this is good as it keeps the reader guessing for some time, especially as to what is really going on, to the extent that when we do find out it’s a bit of a disappointment.

I like the structure of the novel – each chapter is a scene at a particular location, date and time, but there is rather a large gap towards the end section of the story which makes it feel a bit rushed. It’s all just a little bit too incredible for me, but conspiracy theorists will love it.