The Cardinal's Blades is part historical novel, part old-fashioned swashbuckling high-action adventure, and part classic fantasy. S Pierre Pevel has woven some of the best-loved fantasy tropes - musketeer-style adventuring, daring swordsmen, political intrigue, non-stop action and dragons - into a stunning new fantasy series. Paris, 1633. Louis XIII reigns over France ...and Cardinal Richelieu governs the country. One of the most dangerous and most powerful men in Europe, Richelieu keeps a constant, sharp eye on the enemies of the Crown to avoid their assassination attempts, thwart their spies and avert their warmongering. But he's up against people who will stop at nothing to achieve their goals, even going so far as to forge alliances with France's oldest and deadliest enemies. Spain, and the Court of Dragons. The nobility keep tiny dragonnets as pets; royal couriers ride tame wyverns, and lethal man-shaped scaled dracs ropam the country. But the power rising from the Court of Dragons is anything but mundane; the Black Claw sect draws on dragons as they once were: ancient, terrible, utterly merciless ...and poised to move against France.Faced with the growing threat from Spain, Richelieu summons Captain la Fargue, an exceptional swordsman, devoted officer and brilliant leader. If he's to turn aside the Black Claw's schemes, La Fargue and his legenday company of swashbucklers and rogues must be persuaded to once again risk their lives, fortunes and reputations for Richelieu, and for France. It's the biggest challenge yet for The Cardinal's Blades - and they'll need to be sharp ...
If you love Dumas and want a fantasy take on perhaps his most famous set of characters in a fantasy setting then this is the tale for you. Written by a Frenchman and translated for the first time into the English Language this story is going to be something either you’ll love or hate. It’s evocative, its addictive but perhaps most of all it’s a flavour of a country that only someone with intimate knowledge of the secret back passages alongside sights and smells can deliver.
That said, one thing that might annoy English readers is the constant use of French words within the text. For example instead of saying Knight it uses Chevalier and whilst many will accept place names as something as standard, when you’re getting titles alongside “Noms de Guerre” and place nicknames, it can make the whole thing a little confusing as the nuances of the French language can be lost to those not used to the subtleties within.
Other than that it is extremely well written, the translation beautifully handled and goes to show how much Gollancz believes in this author. A true sign that well written fantasy translates the world over as well as allowing the reader a tale that brings to the fore the might of mankind’s courage against the darkness faced by those who hide in shadow. My final niggle is in regard to whether Dragons were required or whether this would have been better as a historical fiction piece as I felt that they really didn’t add much to the piece other than to take it into the fantasy genre. An interesting quandary and from what I’ve heard from friends who are already looking forward to the second novel in the series, definitely one that is worth pursuing.