The Cardinal's Blades
In 1633 in Paris, Cardinal Richelieu as the first minister of France diligently works at insuring the French King Louis XIII is kept safe from his enemies in and out of the country. He especially fears the avarice ancestral dragons and their Black Claw agents, who have insidiously taken over much of the continent. The Black Claw especially wants to gain a foothold in France using the Spanish Ambassador to coerce the Cardinal to acquiesce.
Richielieu is very concerned with the demands. His only hope to forestall trouble for France resides with his Cardinal's Blades. However, they were disbanded in disgrace following a failed mission. The Cardinal asks the former leader sexagenarian Captain La Fargue to round up the crew; but he has doubts, if he can even find them, as they were betrayed on that ill-fated mission and Richelieu condemned them. However, for France he would die so La Fargue begins his quest to find his comrades in arms.
This an exhilarating alternate historical fantasy in which dragons soar over a Dumas’ landscape; though the sentient beasts are more off page as their attempts to enter France with insider traitorous help vs. Richelieu and his team preventing them is the plot. The first part of the saga has a zillion relatively small subplots starring as individuals mostly the former members of the Cardinal’s Blades in their own mini-lead though there are other segues (will need a scorecard); this enables the audience to know what happened to them since the fiasco “exile” and understand their specific personalities. The individual focuses converge into a super seventeenth century thriller as betrayal hinders the Cardinal’s Blades. Readers will relish this sword-fighting homage to a fantasized Three Musketeers.
The twenty-first century historians (Polly Churchill, Merope Ward, and Michael Ward) remain stuck in England during the Nazi Blitz of the country. After being separated for a time (see Blackout), they reunite in London. However, their effort to find a way to tell their future associates at Oxford in 2060 about their predicament remains impossible.
They also know time is running out before Polly’s presence causes a time paradox having been to this era once before. Their fears over the Polly quandary also have them afraid they may have already changed 1940, which will have ripple effects into their time and beyond.
The sequel to Blackout is a fantastic time travel thriller as the trio struggles with the notions that ironically time is running out on them and they may have caused a change in the future. The story line is fast-paced, but the previous tale must be read first to grasp the nuances of All Clear. Fans will relish this strong tale as the trapped threesome in 1940 is unaware that their colleagues back in 2060 are working a time correction to insure All Quiet on the Western Front. Harriet Klausner
Following what occurred to them and others at Petrodor and knowing they are fortunate to be alive, Sasha, Kessleigh and Errolyn flee to what they hope is a haven in the Bacosh held territories. The trio stops at Tracato where they hope for a respite.
However, the large city is tense with open dissension and hostilities between the serrin elected Council and their supporters, and the former powerful feudalists as the former replaced the latter two centuries ago but the former rulers want to be back in charge. As civil war from within threatens the city, the Verenthane faithful seem ready to invade Tracato. This places Sasha and her companions in jeopardy if anyone learns her family is major followers of the Verenthane.
The latest Trial of Blood and Steel saga (see Sasha and Petrodor) is a terrific entry albeit it opens with too much of the back-story especially what occurred in Petrodor for returning readers (great for newcomers). Once that opening segue is completed and the lead trio flees the city for Tracato, the action goes hyper and never slows down as the power struggle explodes. Philosophies battle for domination leaving people like Sasha caught in the middle. Ironically the enlightened alien serrin has brought prosperity to the city, but are not human; while the human feudalists when they reigned they brought prosperity only to the elite. Yet ironically many humans support the feudalists because they are human too. Once the plot accelerates, Tracato is a thought provoking action-packed social fantasy. Harriet Klausner