The story opens with an extremely powerful scene, an attempted murder of the First Consul, Napoléon Bonaparte, who is passing by Rue Nicaise in his way to the Opera. Two Chouans, Pierre Saint Régent and Joseph de Limoëlan, block the street with a cart and provoke an explosion with a strange device called “La Machine Infernale”. In a few minutes, a deadly explosion kills dozens of people, innocent Parisians, but fails to get the target of their mission. Bonaparte leaves in his carriage with his escort perfectly safe. The details of the effects of the bomb are striking, I could easily imagine the horror of those who first arrive to that slaughter.
Roch Miquel is a Chief Inspector who leads this investigation. Young, handsome and intelligent, he knows the importance of finding out the responsible minds behind the attack of the Rue Nicaise, especially after seeing the consequences. He is the son of a Romani Auvergnat, Antonin Miquel, the owner of The Mighty Barrel tavern and also a Jacobite who doesn't hide his opinions about the First Consul and the government. Roch is in love of his beautiful mistress, Blanche, a married, refined and cultivated young woman who seems too perfect to be real.
As I mentioned before in Historical Tapestry conversation about For The King, I had some troubles warming up to Roch in the first half of the book. His judgments towards several people he meets all along the story really got into my nerves. He was quick to love and even quicker to hate. I often felt bad for Alexandrine about the way he treated her and her father. I do understand his background, his story but sometimes it was a bit too much rudeness for my taste. With the development of the investigation, he slowly changes his attitude and becomes less distant and less judgmental towards those who really care for him..
The secondary characters are inevitably captivating, despite their actions. I couldn't stop myself searching for more information about Saint Régent and Limoëlan. Both are responsible for the massacre in Rue Nicaise and yet, I cannot dislike them as much as I did Fouché. They fight for what they believe and if I cannot forgive them for what they did, I felt that neither could them, especially Limoëlan. He seems to have lived all his life riddled with guilt.
The historical research behind the story is remarkable and we can feel in every page the incredible work Catherine Delors did to recreate the Post Revolutionary Paris. For those who know this city, For the King is a tremendous treat, those who don't I'm sure you'll enjoy it and you'll want to come to Paris and visit every corner mentioned in the book.
This period of French history, just after the Revolution and the first years of Napoleon as First Consul, was never really appealing to me, mostly due to my profound dislike for the future French Emperor. Catherine Delors novel didn't change my opinion but made me realize that I will read everything she writes no matter the historical period. Meanwhile, I already add Mistress of the Revolution to my TBR pile for my next vacation. Can't wait!