One for all
by Lillie Lainoff
March 8, 2022
Based on the amount of Carrie’s personal catnip content alone, One for all should have been a SQUEE grade book. Set during the reign of Louis XIV, it features a found family, several women of genius, and a heroine whose chronic illness does not prevent her from being an accomplished fencer. And yet, Dear Bitches, it pains me to say that I found the book, for the most part, profoundly boring.
Our heroine, Tania, is the daughter of a musketeer who left Paris to live in a small town with his wife and Tania. He teaches her how to fence and raises her with stories of her life as a musketeer. Tania lives with a chronic illness that causes frequent dizziness and fainting (known today as Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, or POTS). Her mother is desperate for Tania to get married, so that Tania will have some security once her parents pass away. But no one wants to marry “the sick girl.”
Things take a turn for Tania when her father is murdered and her mother sends her to a secondary school, claiming that her father had insisted that she attend in case he died prematurely.
Tania thinks she is going to be sent to a school that will make her the perfect wife. But, aha, the school is REALLY a school with one teacher and four students, including Tania, all women, including the teacher. It is a school for female musketeers, training women to be seductive in a ballroom and deadly in a fight.
My God, people, what is there not to like?
What I don’t like is the icy pace and the painfully obvious plot. It takes eight full chapters to get to school: eight tedious, depressing, repetitive chapters that tell us, over and over, that Tania is mistreated in her village because of her illness, that she adored her father, and that she has a strained relationship. with her mother, that her parents worry about her future, and that she regards her father’s murder as an unsolved mystery. There are many more chapters than are necessary to convey this information.
Once Tania arrives at the school, there is a burst of energy as the reader meets everyone and finds out what school is for. Then there is another burst of energy when Tania goes to a dance for the first time.
Between these bursts of energy, the book makes the same points over and over again, and this pattern repeats itself throughout the book. The plot also involves a lot of mystery and intrigue, and that would be great if it wasn’t completely predictable. A slowly unfolding mystery isn’t rewarding if I can solve it the first time certain characters are introduced.
That’s true One for all It’s not my favorite read, but it does a few things well. In addition to living with POTS, the author is a competitive fencer. His lived experience shines through the pages, making the descriptions of living with POTS and the fencing training and combat scenes clear and powerful.
I also enjoyed the relationships between women in the book, which are very nuanced and complex. The language is quite charming with some great similes and metaphors and attention to body language and dialogue. There are characters who are lesbians, bisexuals and ace, and a lot of discussion about class and the ethics of protecting a king who is fundamentally irresponsible towards his people. Also, I’m not going to lie, I’m HERE for the fancy clothing and jewelry descriptions, and I particularly enjoyed one of Musketeer’s interests in functional fashion design.
One for all has a divine concept, great use of language in the description of the scenes, clothes and character, great swordsmanship and a depiction of life with a chronic illness that feels authentic (I don’t have POTS, but I do have other chronic illnesses and I could relate to many aspects of Tania’s life with the disease). The problems are all structural: slow pace and predictable results where there should be shocking twists. Since this is a debut book, I would happily give the next release a try.