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'One For All' is a gender-bent retelling of 'The Three Musketeers'

One For All
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Superhero movies are great, sure. But to be honest, my first love on film was The Scarlet Pimpernel: a man that pretended to be a silly, weak French noble when he was actually a master swordsman and spy in disguise. So when I heard that Lillie Lainoff was releasing One For All, a gender-bent retelling of The Three Musketeers, I snapped it right up.

Tania de Batz, 16, is our D'Artagnan, a young woman with a chronic illness of dizziness, vertigo and fainting spells that can incapacitate her at the most inopportune times (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, specifically). She is referred to as "invalide," "pauvre Tania," and called "broken" by her own mother. It's a frustrating situation for an independent young woman who wants only to follow in the forthright footsteps of her father, a former Musketeer.

Tania never bothered entertaining the idea of love and marriage because of her illness. But when Papa dies under mysterious circumstances, a will is found in which he entrusts Tania into the care of Madame de Treville's Académie des Mariées. A dutiful daughter, Tania resigns to make herself marriage material. She decides to use the opportunity of being in Paris to contact the Musketeers and ask them to dig deeper into Papa's death.

But Madame de Treville does not train young woman to be good wives; she trains them to be female musketeers.

Tania joins the ranks of Portia, Théa and Aria (Porthos, Athos and Aramis) and learns to be a spy — distracting and seductive when called for, lethal when necessary. The girls navigate opulent balls, garden parties, alleyways and shipping docks in search of evidence to uncover a plot to assassinate young King Louis XIV. — and possibly find the identity of Tania's father's murderer as well. But a wrench in Tania's plans comes in the form of handsome, hazel-eyed Étienne Verdon, because a Mousquetaire is not supposed to fall for her target.

One for All is a rollicking whirlwind of an adventure novel, filled with intrigue and the ostentatiousness of the pre-Revolutionary French noblesse. I found the massive amount of French scattered throughout the text a true delight. (For those without a rudimentary knowledge of French, there are many context clues.) What I needed to brush up on instead was my history — the novel is set in 1655, after the Fronde, a series of civil wars in which just about everyone (nobles, courts, the French populace) opposed the king.

The swordplay and training sequences reminded me a little of Tamora Pierce's Alanna, but with more fencing lingo, and they were all too brief. I admit I expected Tania's story to have more of an Inigo Montoya arc, but I was not disappointed to find a Lupin-esque tale instead, one of disguise, intrigue, seduction, and non-stop action.

Each precarious situation is made even moreso because of Tania's ever-present illness, a shadow that haunts every tense moment, lurking at the edge of our heroine's vision and threatening to bring her down. Its constant presence carries the message that being strong and needing help are not mutually exclusive — a theme I hope to see more of in future YA novels. As the details of Papa's murder unfold, Lainoff reminds us that grief, much like Tania's illness, also appears in powerful and unanticipated waves.

But Tania's fellow Mousquetaires are definitely the stars of this show. These young women are not without their scars, and often have more confidence in each other than they do in themselves, but they do not define each other by their flaws. The sisterhood embraces and supports Tania completely, unlike the small town from whence she came. By the end, I wanted to join the ranks of these loyal, upstanding young women. May we all be lucky enough to find such camaraderie in our lives!

Alethea Kontis is a voice actress and award-winning author of over 20 books for children and teens.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Alethea Kontis