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For one, loot is much more meaningful, though your new ornate armour, gilded blade, and shiny new dagger do not show during cutscenes. It is a gorgeous game, though you often will not be able to appreciate it as you spend a lot of your time racing across the world at superhuman speeds — it is the only way you can avoid the constant stream of orcs that populate the land as you sprint towards the next objective marker. Those objective markers are also an issue. There are too many of them. The way the world reveals itself to you is over-familiar — you climb towers which act as fast-travel points, activate them, and open up a bunch of nearby activities, littering your map with side-quests.

You might be an immortal killer, but you feel like you are cleaning Mordor up, one icon at a time. This sequel does a better job at pulling you through the story, but there is so much filler, and all of it is front-loaded, hiding all the best moments behind busywork. The fact you get no room to breathe in this orc-filled world only exasperates the issue.

Shadow of War does not understand the importance of downtime. Another complaint I have is how prescriptive it can be. This is a game that is supposed to be about expression — violent expression. The Nemesis system suggests you are free to play your way, yet there are multiple missions that will fail because you went slightly off the beaten track.

There are also missions where being spotted is an automatic failstate. In a sandbox game like this, you should be free to adapt to situations and find your own solutions to problems as they arise — that would allow the core mechanics to let you write your own tales, just like the Nemesis system. It would make the whole experience feel more cohesive. It is rather buggy, too. My most memorable emergent story is when I tracked down an orc commander who I wanted to recruit. He was on a pier, and all hell broke loose when I started fighting him — poison clouds swirled around, bear traps were dotted about, and a vicious beast called a caragor got free from its cage.

Dismounting on the pier teleported me inside a nearby mountain, clipping through the hard rock, from which I could not escape. Some lowly orc got a promotion that day since their arrows could still reach me. Combat feels satisfying but it is governed by magnets. You hit an orc, flick the stick in another direction, and Talion leaps to them to deliver another blow.

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This works great in the Batman: Its parkour-style movement as you explore fortresses and weave between the seas of writhing green muscles is lorded over by the same stickiness. Context-sensitive buttons cause similar annoyances, like when you want to escape a fight and end up vaulting some orc who is immune to vaulting, so you end up thrown to the floor.

This series is defined by action, and in many cases throughout the novel, actions speak louder than words when it comes to characterization. We learn who among the characters will spare a surrendered foe and who will simply slit their throat. In fact, the same characteristic flair and sharp wit that permeated the first book is equally, if not more, present in this one.

It achieves this while also containing more of the swashbuckling action and flamboyant play-by-play rapier duels that made the original so much fun.

The Alchemist in the Shadows by Pierre Pevel

Once again, the story leaps between many different viewpoints with each of the Blades and other characters fulfilling their own separate roles and missions. These simultaneous narratives, along with the aforementioned lightning pace, do not make for a relaxing read as you will need your wits about you to keep up with the story. They do, however, make for an exciting one that will keep your pulse racing. Furthermore, the revelation from the previous book is referred to briefly although its exact meaning and possible consequences remain elusive.

The last few aspects of the book I should probably mention are mainly technical. Why should you read this book? The cliffhangers and teasers may provide a challenge for the impatient, who may prefer to wait until the release of The Dragon Arcana before consuming these relatively short around page , yet extremely enjoyable, installments one after the other.

The series is a must for those who enjoy their fantasy with a sharp wit and a break neck pace. This engrossing sequel is definitely hard to resist with its combination of action, dark magic, intrigue, a touch of humor and bloodshed all set in the decadent splendor of 17th century Paris. Apr 11, Marko rated it liked it. Pierre Pevel continues his story about Cardinal's Blades, men of great talent who serve Cardinal Richelieu and fight for France and against the incursion of the dragons. Personally, I like Pevel's concept up until the last word and I'd be happier reading more traditional historical fiction about the 17th century rapier-wielding Frenchmen.

My main objection to this book, however, is Pierre Pevel's storytelling style. He has a collection of main characters and through whose eyes the story is told, Pierre Pevel continues his story about Cardinal's Blades, men of great talent who serve Cardinal Richelieu and fight for France and against the incursion of the dragons. He has a collection of main characters and through whose eyes the story is told, but you never really get to know any of the characters as the point of view is changed every couple of pages literally and you only get glimpses of each characters' actions as the story progresses.

What's more, each of these 2-page glimpses seem to end in a cliffhanger - a style that gets very old, very quickly. Although I'm strongly attracted to any fiction set in the 17th century age of musketeers! Sep 24, Mike rated it liked it Recommends it for: Although written in virtually an identical style, I liked this book better than it's predecessor, "The Cardinal's Blades". It still has the short, choppy "scenes" chapters , but since at least half the characters are continuing, there is less disruption of the story as new ones are introduced. Like the first book it also resolves one major plot turn, but creates another and ends with the classic "cliff-hanger" of movie serials from the 30s and 40s.

Effective if you are trying to build interest Although written in virtually an identical style, I liked this book better than it's predecessor, "The Cardinal's Blades". Effective if you are trying to build interest in your next installment.

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  5. On the positive side it's an interesting and imaginative tale of 17th Century France. This volume contains a few glimpses into the monarchy of Louis XIII as well as welcome depictions of Paris and various places and institutions. If you enjoy historical fantasy and plan on reading all of the books, then this is a better-than-average series.

    Dec 12, Adam Whitehead rated it liked it. A secretive female agent, known as La Donna, is wanted for crimes across Europe. When she stumbles across a draconic conspiracy aimed at the French throne, she asks for a pardon from Cardinal Richelieu in return for the disclosure of her intelligence. Whilst Richelieu's agents and La Donna engage in a verbal battle of wills, the Cardinal's Blades are assigned to uncovering the extent and nature of the conspiracy before it can be set into motion, only to learn that the formidable Bl France, Whilst Richelieu's agents and La Donna engage in a verbal battle of wills, the Cardinal's Blades are assigned to uncovering the extent and nature of the conspiracy before it can be set into motion, only to learn that the formidable Black Claw agent known as 'The Alchemist' is involved.

    The opening novel in the Cardinal's Blades series was a fun, swashbuckling adventure which combined elements of Dumas with dragons to great effect. This second novel is a somewhat different beast. The first book seemed to establish a potential formula, with the Cardinal's Blades being made aware of a threat and moving to counter it, a formula which could generate quite a few novels before feeling tired. Interestingly, the second novel ups the ante and moves events onto a larger and more apocalyptic scale before ending on a cruel cliffhanger just as the plot starts to really get going.

    The result is a book which is, at least compared to its predecessor, somewhat disappointing for much of its length and then abruptly ends just as it catches fire. Part of the problem is that the book lacks the clear structure of the first one. In the first novel the Blades were gradually re-recruited by Captain La Fargue, assembled and then unleashed against a formidable enemy. In this volume the Blades seem to be more at the whims of fate and luck than working effectively as a team the book sees the Blades off on their own missions for much of its length, with a corresponding lack of the banter and camaraderie of the first novel.

    Some character arcs are continued from the first novel, although bafflingly the major cliffhanger of the first book is only briefly referred to and then dismissed, which makes me wonder why it was included in the first place. Held back until later, it would have been more powerful and effective. Characterisation is also uneven, with Leprat, Laincourt and Saint-Lucq being satisfyingly developed whilst Marciac simply doesn't have much to do.

    The character of La Donna is introduced, becomes fascinating, and then vacates the storyline with little forewarning, with even her much-referred-to verbal fencing skills being reported rather than shown directly, which is a disappointment. This lack of depth is frustrating, given the evident skill Pevel has in other areas. The Alchemist in the Shadows simply lacks the je'nai sais quoi that made the first volume so much fun, only showing signs of its predecessor's verve and energy towards the well-realised conclusion and the cruel cliffhanger.

    Jun 06, Michelle rated it really liked it Shelves: Aug 14, Sharon rated it liked it Shelves: Overall, I enjoyed the book. I thoroughly liked the setting, s France, and the historical fiction feel with the addition of dragons. I didn't realize that this was the second book in a series, but found no trouble following the characters or the plot. The plot, admittedly, took a while to really pick up steam, and I found the addition of La Donna as a character fairly Maybe she plays a greater role in the other books, I don't know.

    But what made this a more mediocre than goo Overall, I enjoyed the book. But what made this a more mediocre than good book for me is either due to the author himself or the translator. Since I can't read French, I don't know if Pevel is more creative with his grammar and the translator didn't catch it, or if he's just a bit stiff when he writes.

    Far too much of the book was "subject, verb, object" or had an awkward flow. And the word "ravishing" was used to describe women far too often. So, not terrible, not fabulous, I probably won't read any of the others. An alternate Europe, where dragons and magic are real, the Cardinals Blades look to uncover a plot against the throne.

    Excellent swashbuckling adventure as plots within plots unfold and the Blades take on different organisations that may be involved in the mysterious plot. Oct 29, Charley Robson added it. I wouldn't say this book was "finished" so much as "done". And by that I mean that I, personally, am completely, utterly, overwhelmingly done. First of all, this book is the second book in a series, and I have no clue what is going on. There are quite a lot of characters roaming around, but I'm not sure who's supposed to be important or for what reasons. That's all on me, though.

    The pretty cover lured me in, I swear! However, I have to admit, the concept behind this book is that wonderful combina I wouldn't say this book was "finished" so much as "done". However, I have to admit, the concept behind this book is that wonderful combination of ideas terrible, preposterous and hilarious that instantly gets my attention. It feels like the author wanted to write a book about Richelieu in a historical setting, but also had a fantasy novel in the back of his head that he hadn't been able to let go of since he read The Dragonriders of Pern when he was It's basically what you would get if Eragon threw up on a Philippa Gregory book wearing a mask made out of Bernard Cornwell novels.

    So we have very detailled and accurate portrayals of historic France, but with outrageously inflated and simplified portrayals of historic figures and equally overblown original characters wandering among them. Also D'Artagnan has a cameo. Oh, and this setting has dragons.

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    It's every bit as ridiculous as you'd expect - the characters are about as arch as it's possible to get without being outright parodic, slim sword-wielding beauties and grizzled-but-handsome soldiers one and all, and the tone veers wildly between serious discussions of politics to rambles about black dragon councils breeding inhuman soldiers for Spanish armies and secret alchemistical plots against kings being concocted by a cackly old dragon-man in the basement.

    I have to say I rather like that the premise embraces its own ridiculousness and runs with it, playing it completely straight and therefore making it even funnier in the process. But then there is everything else. The writing, for one, is awful. It's clearly aiming for the simple, punchy style of the aforementioned Bernard Cornwell, but comes across as awkward, bland and bizarrely overblown.

    The characters' archness has grown so high they've successfully circumvented physics to achieve complete flatness in the ninth degree, which isn't helped by the fact that we are told absolutely anything and everything about what they're wearing, doing, thinking, or sniffing. Anyone who ever doubted the validity of the "show, don't tell" rule needs only to read this book to see how devastatingly boring, stilted and clumsy writing becomes when it is ignored. The pace, admittedly, is not awful, but the author has decided that every single one of his precious new characters must have a perspective, and thus the story jumps madly between them, in the middle of chapters, with no rhyme or reason behind it.

    Completely pointless descriptions of characters getting dressed, walking down corridors and eating breakfast get whole paragraphs to themselves - though the terrible paragraphing may be more the fault of the editor of this particular edition than of the author - while the occasional fight scene is muddied and confused by the poor writing. Subsequently, there are no stakes, no logic, and, sadly, not much of anything else either. I may yet eat my words and go back to read the first book in this series. The setup and concept are so preposterous, so utterly bonkers, that I may overcome my distaste for the writing just to amuse myself with the hypotheticals.

    Sadly, I think those hypotheticals are the only thing I will be recommending. Book Two of a series by Pierre Pevel http: A mash-up of Dumas and dragons, the first one was a very fun read, but suffered a little from the need to set everything up and trigger a bunch of plots, some of which were resolved in the first book, a lot of which weren't.

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    It was a lot of fun, though, and the translation seemed to flow nicely. I would Book Two of a series by Pierre Pevel http: I wouldn't have said that I was champing at the bit for book two, but the combination of a fun read and a killer cliffhanger did mean that when I got hold of a proof of the sequel it was selected for the holiday pile quite quickly - something light and entertaining to start me off.

    Thankfully, it wasn't a bad choice. I had a couple of minor issues with the book - nothing major by any means - but overall it was very much along the lines of the first book, which is no bad thing. I love a bit of Dumas-esque fiction, and the addition of dragons can only be a benefit.

    Again, the pace of the book was pretty much maintained throughout, and the translation wasn't too clunky or stilted in fact, it felt nicely of the period. The lead characters - Richelieu to a certain extent and, of course, the group of heroes known as the Cardinal's Blades - are well portrayed, and, if not exactly complex, have a sense of life. The plot is fairly unimportant, but twists along nicely, and the interplay between the various factions and groups is done well.

    My only two issues are, really, very small. Pevel seems to have a slight temptation to recap events a little more than he needs to - there's one point about half-way through the book where the backstory and characters seem to be re-introduced, and I half-wondered if the book had been published in two parts in France. It turns out it hasn't, so I have no explanation for the repeat of information. On the other hand, my other problem is almost the opposite - the really quite shocking reveal from the very end of book one is barely referred to here. It's good to have plot-lines that can run through an ongoing series, but the information was so important and surprising, it seemed odd for the author not to throw in a few more references to it.

    That aside, though, the book is well worth reading well, if you've read the first one, anyway. I assume this is going to be a fairly long-running series, and I'll keep up with it - as long as there's a little more movement on the over-arching plot points.

    L'alchimiste des ombres est le second volume de la trilogie Les lames du Cardinal, de Pierre Pevel. Aucun temps mort dans cette histoire, on ne s'ennuie pas une seconde. Et Leprat, qu'adviendra-t-il de lui? May 11, Stacey O'Neale rated it liked it. Pevel returns to seventeenth century France in this second novel of the Cardinal's Blades. A new threat rises to threaten the future of France. La Donna, an Italian spy known for her subterfuge and intrigue and, of course, inescapable and beguiling beauty, possesses information of a plot against the King and is willing to share it, for a price.

    As a French adventure story that is supposed to remind us of Dumas - if Alexandre had had a penchant for dragons, dragonnettes, and dracs running rampant in the streets of Paris and the French countryside alongside the musketeers, that is - Pevel succeeds. There is a flavor to this novel that is very reminiscent of nineteenth century adventure novels, doused liberally with fantasy elements. This novel isn't without its difficulties, though. As a sequel, it stumbles a little.