|Dumas with Dragons!
Im not kidding. Pierre Pevel is
French, so its hardly surprising that when he writes historical fantasy, he turns
not to the Arthurian or Elizabethan like English-speaking writers, but to the colourful
court of Louis XIII, to Cardinal Richelieu and to the Musketeers. That said, our heroes
are not the Kings Musketeers beloved in Dumas, but the Cardinals Blades. The
villains are dragons, and one dragon in particular - L'Alchimiste des Ombres.
We learn early in the book that there is a draconic plot against the throne of France,
but the exact nature of the dastardly plan does not become clear right until the climax.
After a cracking fight in the introduction, the first three quarters of the book is
largely occupied with investigations and political manoeuvring, so much so that a list of
dramatis personae would have been really useful. Then, around page 280, the pace suddenly
quickens, and everything comes to the suitably swash-buckling finale, with some
brilliantly described swordplay.
There is more than a hint of Dumas in both the setting and in the writing style. I read
Dumas in my teen years including some of the less well-known novels like Twenty
Years After, and I recognise his work in Pevels. But Pevel adds
dragons to the mix, not just the large intelligent magic-using dragons, but tarrasques as
heavy haulers, wyverns carrying messengers and so on. How history managed to survive that
major a change and remain more-or-less intact is not explained, but that isnt the
point. No, this is about fun alternate history with French flair.
Oh, and two things I learned trawling Pevels web pages
the French word for
steampunk is steampunk, and he writes that too.