The Cardinal’s Blades by Pierre Pevel mixes fantasy and historical fiction by adding dragons into 17th century France.
Action and intrigue dominate this book from start to finish. Unfortunately plot and characters must take a backseat, leaving the end result as slightly confusing and not all that emotionally engaging.
I liked this book, despite its flaws. It’s the first book of a series, though I only learned this after reading it so I didn’t know to expect a sequel. In a way knowing it’s the first book makes sense because while the book lacks deeper characterization, it does introduce us a whole heap of characters and usually in ways not tying into the rest of the story.
Roughly the first half of the book doesn’t have much to do with the latter half because it focuses too much on telling us what our ex-Blades have been doing lately and how they end up meeting once again. The book also didn’t involve as much dragons as I would’ve expected from the premise, but they were a nice little add-on.
Setting is one of this book’s strong points but sadly it only makes it even easier to spot how little detail the characters receive. There’s so much information told by the know-it-all-narrator that I’m not sure it was all needed (is it really important if there was or wasn’t a house in this particular street in that specific year in the past?) but for the most part you can tell the characters apart because one of them is very carefree, one is quiet, one is grizzled etc. etc. I didn’t hate the characters and I’m sure they could pop out into their own unique persons in the rest of the series if the author moves his focus on them. But since I haven’t read those yet, I can’t be sure.
In the end I enjoyed reading the book, occasionally staying in its world for hours at a time. If you don’t mind a lot of action (meaning almost constant swordfights spiced with gun shots) and detailed naming of the streets of Paris, and would like a musketeer story, give this a try.