Tuesday, November 23, 2010

JD's Take: The Cardinal's Blades (Pierre Pavel)

Not one, but two of my friends responded the exact same way when told the title of the book I was reading was "The Cardinal's Blades": "Is it reverse The Three Musketeers?". My response was the same to both of them too: "Yeah, but with dragons. Kinda."

By "reverse Three Musketeers" what they meant was that the protagonists of the story are an elite squad of Cardinal Richelieu's Guard who are tasked with... delicate acts of force. The kind that get you disavowed and disbanded for five years as a matter of political expedience (which is where the story picks up). The squad is made up of a wonderful and diverse cast of french musketeers, duelists, gamblers, sneaks, nobles, and lovers who are fiercely loyal to their Captain. The Captain, and by extension the entire squad, are loyal to Richelieu, France, and the King (in roughly that order)... though honestly it seems like they just really like their jobs.

Oh and the dragons. So in THIS France of 1633, an ancient race of Dragons has long since taken human form and manipulate the politics of Europe from behind the scenes. There are little shoulder dragons flying about serving as pets and pigeons. There is a race of dragon/human hybrids that were created by the dragons of yore to serve as minions. So. There's some dragon-y stuff in there as well.

It took me a little while to really get into this book. For starters, it was written in French and like any translation has its fair share of quirks. However, the thing that really got to me was the author's tendency to break the immersion of the story by describing the city of Paris in historical terms. For instance, he might say while describing a chase through the muck-filled alleys of 17th century Paris that the villian turned down the Rue-De-Marque, which wouldn't become a bustling thoroughfare until 1850 blah-de-blah. It kept jarring me out of the story. However, eventually I became used to the author's style and really enjoyed the story. It's a fun, action-packed intrigue filled with exciting characters who all have a Dark Secret or three. Much of these are only hinted at in this book, and the prospect of occasionally breaking up my future readings with further forays into this Dumasian fantasy delights me.

It's candy, but sweet sweet candy indeed. I ended up enjoying it so much that I picked up the sequel immediately after finishing it and started right in without so much as a snack-break.

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