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Pardaillan. Pardaillan was created by the French writer Michel Zévaco and appeared in ten novels from 1902 to 1926, beginning with “Pardaillan” (La Petite République Socialiste, 1902).

Pardaillan is a Cape-and-Épée Hero. The Pardaillan series begins in France in 1533, under the reign of Henry II, and ends in 1614, under the regency of Marie de Médici. The series is about the Chevalier de Pardaillan, an épée-wielding adventurer. His life is filled with misfortune–he loses two wives–but he continually puts himself in the service of the kings of France, frustrating the plans of their enemies and helping the kings lead France to glory. Pardaillan’s most dangerous enemy is Princess Fausta, a descendant of Lucrèce Borgia. Fausta schemes to become the Queen of France, and Pardaillan persistently opposes her and foils her schemes. In The Death of Fausta Pardaillan and Fausta disappear in an explosion which possibly kills them both.

Pardaillan is an egalitarian. Although he sells his sword to those who need it, he is far more concerned with opposing Fausta and helping the oppressed. He always obeys his personal code of honor and is a knight-errant. Pardaillan is a very human hero, someone who not only grows old but who also makes mistakes, gets afraid, and sometimes loses fights.

* I'm including the Pardaillan novels in the Best of the Encyclopedia list because they're a lot of fun. One can't say that Michel Zévaco was in the class of Alexandre Dumas. Perhaps the more apposite comparison would be to Stanley Weyman, as both hit the heights of Cape-and-Epee thrills and both inevitably suffered from a posthumous neglect and decline in reputation. Zévaco, though, was a twentieth-century writer and Weyman a Victorian and Edwardian, so that Weyman's style is a little stiffer, Zévaco's a little looser, and the Pardaillan novels, even in translation, more modern, more High Pulp, and more nakedly thrilling. (The pleasure of Weyman's novels are subtler things). The Pardaillan novels are swashbuckling fun, perfect for those in the mood for something like The Three Musketeers

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