A Feminist Three Musketeers

A Feminist Three Musketeers

Eye on the Indies:
A Look at Indie Authors and Their Publishers

By Lanie Tankard, Indie Book Review Editor

For the Good of the Realm by Nancy Jane Moore (Seattle: Aqueduct Press, June 1, 2021; 278 pages; $19.00; ISBN: 978-1-61976-187-2 paperback; also available as ebook, $7.95).

“…All for One and One for All
that is our motto, is it not?”

—Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers
Spoken by D’Artagnan to Porthos, Athos, Aramis
(Jacques  Le Clercq translation, p. 91)

Cover Illustration: Ruby Rae Jones

In an engaging feminist take on The Three Musketeers, Nancy Jane Moore creates subtle allusions relevant to any age. While her characters are molded distinctly, individual personality traits echo the Dumas tale from the era of King Louis XIII. Moore develops her own plot with magic and witches but this above all remains true: the overriding theme of honor.

As a member of the Queen’s Guard, Anna d’Gart evokes the Dumas musketeer Athos in being intelligent, courageous, and a swordfighter par excellence. In working for the greater good, she shoulders a heavy responsibility. She commits herself to doing what is honorable even when alone, yet admits: “Sometimes you have to break one rule to follow another.”

Her fellow Guardswoman Asamir is somewhat akin to the Dumas musketeer Porthos—amusing, self-admiring in every mirror, fashionable, a spry swordfighter, and good-hearted underneath it all. She desires to become a nun someday.

One evening they encounter two members of the King’s Guard in Café Maudite, where hot-headed Jean Paul insults Asamir and, adhering to the standard code of conduct, they draw swords outside. Standing on principle to defend her friend’s integrity, Anna also clashes blades with Jean Paul’s friend, Roland de Barthes. Everyone ends up alive, but Anna and Asamir find themselves in hot water with their captain for fighting members of the King’s Guard.

From then on, the four establish a camaraderie. Asamir and Jean Paul flirt by bickering. Anna and Roland’s relationship is more considered, for each serves a different monarch, she the Queen and he the King. There’s romance, but these are strong female characters who neither swoon nor require saving.

Sworn to defend the Realm, the adventurers try to prevent war with nearby countries—although Asamir enjoys swordfighting so much she actually wouldn’t mind another opportunity. As did Dumas, Moore works in history, describing past hardships of battling a neighboring realm in The Last War with Foraoise (an Irish word meaning “forestland”). That era was rough on everyone due to questions of ownership over the valuable Airgead mines on the border.

The Queen sends Anna on a desperate errand to retrieve a compromising gift to the Countess of Beaufort. Moore shifts genders here in the Queen’s affair, as Dumas had his queen involved with the Duke of Buckingham. Anna completes her mission and returns to discover trouble brewing after Foraoise recalled its ambassador from the Realm.

Fortunately, Anna has a friend living in Foraoise. Sotha, who trained in swordfighting with Anna and Asamir, was picked on at school “because he was a foreigner.” Anna defended him. Now he’s minister of defense for Foraoise and his father an advisor to their Queen. Anna believes diplomacy through her connection to Sotha might help avoid war.

Ah, but back home another character enters the stage—the King’s aunt, who happens to be the Hierofante. The ancient Greek word hierofant means high priest. The Hierophant is also a Tarot card sometimes called The Pope, standing for tradition. When the card is reversed though, it represents abuse of position.

The Hierofante in Moore’s tale is analogous to Cardinal Richelieu, but Moore shifts genders for her character and reverses the card. Can the Hierofante be trusted? Could she be, heaven forbid, using magic? For that matter, could Sotha? What might happen if an untrained witch tried to wield power?

Author photo: Aqueduct Press

This concern about the use of sorcery creates bewitching intrigue, as the Hierofante seems to be employing it to her own ends. The Church had banned many of the old ways, including the practice of magic, and the country people suffered as the Law of the Forest was no longer recognized. There are parallels to the Magna Carta here.

The unfolding narrative has a political slant, such as Roland wondering what they should do “if those in high places are not willing to listen.” Anna’s response? “…we must consider the Realm above all.” Think of Lord Varys, Master of Whisperers aligned with House Targaryan in Game of Thrones, uttering “I did what I did for the good of the Realm” in the episode “Chaos Is a Ladder.” As Moore subtly weaves history into her book, one cannot help but draw comparisons to contemporary events. Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The addition of several readers’ aids would have been nice: a map, a timeline, a cast of characters list. What drives this saga is not so much the writing as the solid, well-constructed plot. It’s intelligent, witty, and readable. The parable is pointed, recasting the gender divide from times gone by, rife with the idea that women don’t have to conform to society’s traditions. Thinking about the benefit of the populace and about more people than oneself are not radical ideas. Anna feels power in simply adhering to her duty.

Nancy Jane Moore reminds us what the greater good looks like—lest we’ve forgotten. In her domain, there’s integrity, principle, and rectitude. Her main characters have character. For the Good of the Realm is a tale of honor, and women are writing it.

Nancy Jane Moore is a writer in Oakland, California. A founding member of Book View Café, she has published short fiction, novellas, essays, and reviews. She studied liberal arts in the Plan II honors program at the University of Texas, and went on to law school. She worked at the National Cooperative Bank in Washington, DC, as well as a nonprofit law firm before going into legal journalism and writing. 

Moore attended the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop in Seattle. A fourth-degree black belt in Aikido, she has taught at the University of Maryland Aikido Club. 

Publisher: Aqueduct Press

Aqueduct Press is a small indie publisher of feminist science fiction based in Seattle. Founded in 2004 by L. Timmel Duchamp, the press also publishes a literary quarterly, The Cascadia Subduction Zone.

Publisher/Editor Duchamp is author of The Marq’ssan Cycle, a five-volume series that won a 2009 Special Honor from the Otherwise Award (formerly the Tiptree Award) which encourages the exploration and expansion of gender. Her short-fiction collection Love’s Body, Dancing in Time was shortlisted for the 2004 Tiptree. Her novels include Chercher La Femme (2018), The Waterdancer’s World (2016), and The Red Rose Rages (Bleeding) (2005). Duchamp received the 2009-2010 Neil Clark Special Achievement Award at WisCon, and was twice a finalist for the World Fantasy Award as writer and editor.

Tom Duchamp of Aqueduct is professor emeritus in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Managing Editor Kathryn Wilham designed For the Good of the Realm. Aqueduct submission instructions are on the website, but Wilham notes: “We are not accepting submissions at this time. We plan to begin accepting submissions again in a few months.”

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