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The Cardinal's Blades

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ISBN13: 9781616142452
ISBN10: 1616142456
Condition: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Welcome to seventeenth-century Paris, where intrigue, duels, and spies are rife and Cardinal Richelieu’s men may be prevailed upon to risk life and limb in the name of France at a moment’s notice. And with war on the horizon, the defense of the nation has never been more pressing.

Danger is rising from the south—an insidious plot that could end with a huge dragon-shaped shadow falling over France, a shadow cast by dragons quite unlike the pet dragonets that roam the cities like stray cats, or the tame wyverns men ride like horses, high over the Parisian rooftops. These dragons and their descendants are ancient, terrible, and powerful ... and their plans contain little room for the lives or freedom of men.

Cardinal Richelieu has nowhere else to turn; Captain La Fargue and his elite group of men, the Cardinal’s Blades, must turn the tide. They must hold the deadly Black Claw cult at bay, root out traitors to the crown, rescue prisoners, and fulfill their mission for the Cardinal, for their country, but above all for themselves.

It’s death or victory. And the victory has never been less certain.

Review:

"Pevel, winner of the 2002 Grand Prix de l'Imaginaire and the 2005 Prix Imaginales, makes a stunning English-language debut with this breathless, swashbuckling tale of intrigue, spying, and swordfights. In an alternate 17th-century Paris, dragonnets are exotic pets, wyverns are high-class riding mounts, and drac thugs are the coarsest of mercenaries. After a five-year hiatus, Cardinal Richelieu reunites his elite force to aid France in its complex relationship with Spain's Black Claw cult of half-dragon royalty. A mostly straightforward adventure plot leaves plenty of room for character development, drama, and excitement. Clegg's solid translation reads pleasingly as culturally French without the language ever feeling stilted or unnatural. Published in France to great acclaim in 2007, Pevel's adventure is just as likely to charm Anglophone audiences who enjoy action-packed adventure with a true historical sensibility. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)

Synopsis:

Welcome to 17th-century Paris where intrigue, duels and spies are rife and, with war on the horizon, Cardinal Richelieu's men may be prevailed upon to risk life and limb in the name of France at a moment's notice.

About the Author

Pierre Pevel, born in 1968, is one of the foremost writers of French fantasy today. The author of seven novels, he was awarded the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire in 2002 and the Prix Imaginales in 2005, both for best novel.

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Jvstin, December 9, 2010 (view all comments by Jvstin)
The ring of swords. The clash of steel. Action. Adventure. Swashbuckling. Romance.
Even in this modern age, there is a irresistible romance to swordplay, musketeers and the derring-do of a long lost age. Captured by Alexandre Dumas in his 19th century novels, the world of the musketeers has extended into many movie adaptations (and yet more to come). As a seminal influence, the Three Musketeers are one of the principal inspirations for both the sword and sorcery and sword and sandal genres in fantasy and historical fiction.

Similarly, dragons are an extremely popular sub-genre in fantasy today. While dragons have been around in fantasy fiction since the time of Smaug, and the transformed Eustace, and McCaffrey’s Pern are replete with them, in the last few years dragons have commonly cropped up both in modern day tales as well as the alternate Napoleonic War novels of Naomi Novik.
The Cardinal’s Blades, the English language debut of French author Pierre Pavel, might be thought of as the marriage of these two streams of culture. Grounded in an alternate-history 17th century France, the Cardinal’s Blades is the story of the titular characters, a disgraced secret force of Cardinal Richelieu brought back into service for one more mission against France’s major adversary—Spain and its Court of Dragons, and more to the point, its secret society trying to operate in France, the Black Claw.

In Pavel’s alternate world, while history has mostly gone on as it has in our world (I did catch at least one major change that makes this alternate history, not just our-history-with-dragons), there are dragons of all sizes in society. Dragonets are pets for the rich and powerful (such as the good Cardinal himself). Wyverns, in perhaps a nod to Novik, are used by aviators as couriers. There are half-dragons (matings between transformed dragons and humans) and brutish dracs (humanoid dragon offspring) as well. Actual dragons are rare and devoted to their own inscrutable purposes. For the most part, they are offstage, manipulating the action rather than, say, taking to the skies and raking Paris with gouts of fire.
This is also true of the other fantastic draconic elements I just mentioned. For the most part, the dragonets, and wyverns are only there for color, a splash of fantasy paint on the historical bones of the book. The Cardinal’s Blades’ focus is directed on the historical sword-and-sandal elements and milieu.

Characterization development, is another disappointment in this novel. Pavel seems to have reserved most of his characterization for the captain of the Cardinal’s Blades, La Fargue, and has fallen to stereotypes and somewhat thinner character development for the rest of the cast . The Womanizing rogue, the Serious one, the Woman in a man’s world. Once these traits are set, they do not seem to change or grow.

On the bright side, every one of the Cardinal’s Blades does get individual attention and screen time, especially when La Fargue gets the band back together, and when the members head out in a Diaspora to accomplish various pieces of the problem of opposing the Black Claw and its plans. The villains are somewhat more well drawn, and as in the case in many of these books, are as interesting as the characters.

A fair criticism of this review might ask—given my criticisms thus far, well what DOES work in this book?
Well, the Historical perspective. As I have said earlier, this is an alternate history. I am not so familiar with French history to be aware of other divergences, but there is one. It is not at all clear that the fantasy elements are responsible for the point of divergence, and it does seem to be again, mostly for color. The writing does effectively convey the backdrop of 17th century France, perhaps more so because I kept mentally filling in memories of various Musketeers movies. What I mean by this is, nothing in the book jarred with those visions, helping to establish an effective mise-en-scene for the events of the novel.

The swashbuckling action and adventure, too, is one of the best reasons to read this book. Action and adventure this novel has in plenty and Pavel seems to be at his best and most effective as a writer when things get interesting. To the point, there are very effective “set-piece” encounters and battles that are exciting, well written, and helped draw me through the book. For all of the weaknesses mentioned above, Pavel knows how to write effective, engaging and exciting encounters between the protagonists and their foes.

Another thing that works is the complexity of the plot. It’s not too convoluted, but things are not quite as they seem, and the motivations of the bigger players on the board are suitably complex and multisided. There is a lot going on in Pavel’s world, much more than meets the eye, and there plenty of material here that future volumes in this world could explore.

So, while I don’t think that Pavel’s The Cardinal’s Blades is an heir to, say, Brust’s The Phoenix Guards and Five Hundred Years Later, I think it is good enough that I would read a sequel, especially given the twist ending that begs for explanation in a future volume. I hope that forthcoming books will keep Pavel’s strengths and shore up some of the weaknesses and would love to see what he does, given an opportunity to grow into this universe.

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Product Details

ISBN:
9781616142452
Author:
Pevel, Pierre
Publisher:
Pyr
Author:
Clegg, Tom
Subject:
Fantasy - Historical
Subject:
Science Fiction and Fantasy-Fantasy-Historical
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20101031
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Language:
English
Pages:
309
Dimensions:
9 x 6.06 x 0.84 in 0.8125 lb

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The Cardinal's Blades Used Trade Paper
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$6.95 In Stock
Product details 309 pages Pyr - English 9781616142452 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Pevel, winner of the 2002 Grand Prix de l'Imaginaire and the 2005 Prix Imaginales, makes a stunning English-language debut with this breathless, swashbuckling tale of intrigue, spying, and swordfights. In an alternate 17th-century Paris, dragonnets are exotic pets, wyverns are high-class riding mounts, and drac thugs are the coarsest of mercenaries. After a five-year hiatus, Cardinal Richelieu reunites his elite force to aid France in its complex relationship with Spain's Black Claw cult of half-dragon royalty. A mostly straightforward adventure plot leaves plenty of room for character development, drama, and excitement. Clegg's solid translation reads pleasingly as culturally French without the language ever feeling stilted or unnatural. Published in France to great acclaim in 2007, Pevel's adventure is just as likely to charm Anglophone audiences who enjoy action-packed adventure with a true historical sensibility. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Synopsis" by , Welcome to 17th-century Paris where intrigue, duels and spies are rife and, with war on the horizon, Cardinal Richelieu's men may be prevailed upon to risk life and limb in the name of France at a moment's notice.
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