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The Alchemist in the Shadows
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Well Mr Pevel is carving out a unique little niche for himself in the fantasy market and it seems a shame that the two Cardinals Blades books are not better known and more celebrated on this side of the channel.

What I really like about them is the realness of the people. Pevel has realised like all the best people painters that characters are far more believable, likeable and winning when they are flawed and fallible creatures rather than near perfect, noble beings. The Cardinals blades are made up of an alcaholic brawler (who I always see as Oliver Reed!), an ex musketeer who is slowly dying of a disease called the Ranse, a womanising gambling addict and an enigmatic half-breed.

The action is set in early 17 century Europe with the political machinations of the royal courts, spies, border skirmishes and the nefarious scheming of the Dragons (in Pevels world they now spend most of their time in human form) The warrior band who are at the centre of this story, are a band of crack swordsmen who serve the French Cardinal and an endearing bunch they are. This story once again brings them up against a devious plot being hatched by the evil 'Black claw'.

I will say nore more of the plot, but would point out this episode is not as action packed as the first which was a little frustrating as we didn't see all the 'Blades' in action. Another annoyance was the way the book ended or at least stopped. A bit like a mid season episode of Dr who, you know where the Doctor walks into a quarry and suddenly realises he is completely surrounded by Cyber men..how will he escape? watch next week. Or in this case buy the next book!

Still, I really enjoyed this and I will buy the next one. But if you are reading monsieur Pevel I would have done anyway!!!
Anyway good stuff a fantasy 3 musketeers but with 7 of them instead of 4!??
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Having read the original novel by this French author, I really enjoyed his Dumas style alongside his characters, who whilst flawed, did their best to follow their own codes of honour. It's stylistic, it has a flowing script and, to top it all off, it has dragons thrown in. What Pevel does well, and probably what helped him win the David Gemmell Morningstar Award, is his dialogue, its got ton's of formality that help place the characters into the timeline and backed up with emotional content that has added to the mythos that he helped establish back in the Cardinal's Blades.

Finally add a thrill seeking roller coaster of plot twists and you know that it's an adventure you'd best hold onto. Of my concerns with the original, this one does bring the dragons more to the fore in this offering which adds new layers and helps explain why they really had to be there as the original story laid the background, this one adds more context. A well written piece and I can't wait for the final part.
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on 11 November 2011
I read that the books are translated from the French novels, in which case, a massive thumbs up to the translating teams whom have been able to keep the Gallic charm, whilst aso allowing the English used to flow smoothly.
People and situations are vividly realised and Pierre Pevel really knows how to write dialogue, without having to resort to clunky "ye olde worldisms".
I'd normally steer well clear of dragon books but having a kindle makes taking a gamble much easier...and I'm so glad I did.
I have already pre-ordered the 3rd novel in the series.

If you have read the book 'Perfume' then you will appreciate also how vividly Pierre has created France (mainly Paris and her suburbs).

Really damned fine series and I look forward to number three and subsequent series also.
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on 19 May 2012
This is the second book of a trilogy: it follows "The cardenal's blades" novel.
It further develops the "draconian" plot and the dragons, Black Claw, Guardians, etc, play a stronger part.
This second book is preparing the path towards the final book of the trilogy ( The dragon Arcana).
If you have already enjoyed the first book, you are now "doomed" to continue till the end.

Enjoy!
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on 21 May 2014
See my review of the final volume The Dragon Arcana - this is IMHO a splendid trilogy blending swashbuckling a la Sabatini and Dumas with fantasay ie dragons and 'majik'. Easy reads which sweep you along. Highly recommended even if dragons are not normally your thing - they aren't mine.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 7 December 2010
The Alchemist in the Shadows is the follow-up to last year's successful swashbuckler, The Cardinal's Blades. Picking up mere weeks after the first book left off, Alchemist plunges headlong back into the world of flashing blades, courtly intrigues, dodgy liaisons and dark magic.

In Pevel's take on 17th century Paris, only the complex manipulations of Cardinal Richelieu have prevented France from being overwhelmed by its many foes. France has enemies without (its Protestant neighbours), within (scheming nobles - including the queen's mother) and supernatural (the Black Claw - draconic cultists with an apocalyptic vision for Europe). In the first book, Richelieu was forced to recall Captain la Fargue and his "blades", a group of talented (if unconventional) soldiers. Now, in the second, the Captain and his friends are up to their collective necks in danger.

Paraphrasing my review of The Cardinal's Blades - the plot is incidental. Convoluted, complex, surprisingly rewarding... but still incidental. Mr Pevel clearly adores Dumas, and his gifted transformation of Dumas' work into the fantasy genre is wonderful to read.

This is a very, very stylish book. Either the reader is willing to commit to the joyous, flamboyant, no-holds-barred swashbuckling lunacy of the series, or the adventure is wasted.

If anything, The Alchemist in the Shadows is a slightly more mature offering than The Cardinal's Blades. If the first book was an unrepentant homage to Dumas' creations, in The Alchemist in the Shadows, the reader is introduced to more of Pevel's own talent. A bit more background is revealed - a few more knightly and religious orders come to the front as the world is fleshed out. Even more importantly, we learn more about the backgrounds and personalities of the characters, major and minor. The Blades are all very likeable folk, and, with this book, they also become slightly more differentiated. This is no bad thing - Pevel proves that he's not only able to channel Dumas, but also that he can create something quite impressive with his own voice as well.

Mr Pevel is creating a stunning series that mixes plot and style, sword and sorcery, fine dining and fiery dragons. He's clearly got a knack for the convoluted intrigue of the period, but resists the urge to let indulgent detail stand in the way of telling a great story. The Alchemist in the Shadows is the sort of crazily-fun, laugh-out-loud adventure that makes you want to fence with your own shadow, and practice witty repartee in front of the mirror. Speaking a reader, the more of these books that exist, the happier I am.
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