Here is a brief summary of the book:
Cardinal Mazarin, the Chief Minister who has governed throughout King Louis’ early years, lies dying. As a fierce power struggle develops to succeed him, a religious brotherhood, guardian of a centuries-old secret, also sees its chance to influence events.
Gabriel de Pontbriand, an aspiring actor employed as secretary to Moliere, becomes unwittingly involved when documents stolen from Mazarin’s palace fall into his hands. The coded papers will alter Gabriel’s life forever, and their explosive contents have the power to change the course of history for France and the rising Sun King himself.
Most European monarchies were rife with conspiracies and intrigue – between courtiers, ministers, and the monarchy. The authors capture this perfectly in the court of King Louis XIV. The backstabbing between Minister of Finace Jean-Baptiste Colbert (Mazarin’s protege) and Superintendent of Finance Nicolas Fouquet is believable and stunning. Alliances shift with the political winds.
The authors set the story with great descriptions of Paris and the royal palaces. They also capture the mood of the era with all of the anxiety and political intrigue.
Gabriel is the hero who seems to stumble from one thing to the next until his stumbling leads him to a great discovery. His interactions with the powerful and the less so are relatable (he comes from an educated, but middle-income family).
Although the plot plods along a bit (especially in the middle), it picks up and ends with a bang. There are a few unexpected twists.