Literature / Les Messagers du Temps

Les Messagers du Temps (The Messengers of Time) is a French Gamebook series in four volumes. It is written by some guy supposedly called James Campbell but who seems to actually be Jean-François Ménard (famous for translating the Harry Potter books in French); the first book came out in 1987. It was marketed as a translated work from English in order to sell better (considering that the popular gamebooks at the time were British works).

The plot is about the Prince and the Princess of Time, the twin children of Chronada, Queen of Time, who rules over the Kingdom of Time in the center of the Earth where people live forever, away from the human world.

Chronada having to leave the Kingdom for other duties, she decides that one of her two children will replace her. In order to choose which one, she sends them on a mission: free the Messengers of Time, four citizens of the Kingdom of Time who are prisoners on the Earth's surface, in different places and time periods. Those people are Gayok the Brave in Middle-Age France, Hensock the Crazy in Paris before the French Revolution, Oclock the Good in the United States during the Civil War and Valiocka the Fair in California in 1989.

Gameplay is directly based on the Fighting Fantasy series, with a special system for hit points lost in battle. There are also moments where you can or you are forced to rely on pure hard luck, by choosing a card among others to cut out of the book.

You can choose to play either as the Prince or the Princess of Time, which has very little influence on gameplay but more on the dialogue.

List of the books:
  1. Le Carillon de la Mort (The Chimes of Death)
  2. Le Masque de Sang (The Blood Mask)
  3. L'Homme au Cheval de Brume (The Man on the Fog Horse)
  4. Objectif: Apocalypse (Objective: Apocalypse)

Les Messagers du Temps provide examples of the following tropes:

  • Action Girl: The Princess of Time can get her touch of action as well as her brother, and doesn't enjoy sexist remarks from men who tell her that she'd better be washing laundry instead of carrying weapons (no, really).
  • Affably Evil: The Mollues. They are plump and jovial witches, who look like very pleasant individuals. They also despise women or any man who doesn't compliment their beauty to the highest degree, and will use their saliva to turn you into miserable jelly individuals. Sometimes, they will do it for fun.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: In the second book, where some of the main antagonists are aristocrats. However, the story also partly subverts this by introducing aristocrats who are trying to change the monarchy and give more freedom to the people: Thibaud de Ponsac, Eloi de Courtemare and Robert de la Gaillottière. Also counts as Shown Their Work, as some aristocrats (even if they were a minority) were favorable to the idea of giving more freedom to the people in the France of the 18th Century.
  • Artistic License History: The third book, because it insists on its Wild West setting, gives us an extremely Manichean and extremely simplified rendition of The American Civil War. All we learn is that the Confederates are esclavagists and that the Union wants to free the slaves. The other causes of this conflict and its complexity are conveniently forgotten.
  • Astonishingly Appropriate Appearance: Aymeric des Effraies looks like an owl. His name "Effraies" is based on the French name for a barn owl, "chouette effraie".
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: The Prince and the Princess of Time may be rivals for the throne, but they're also twin siblings. And some scenes show that they care a lot about each other. Paradoxically, the best scenes that illustrate this are hard to find. For instance, in the first book, if you really screw up the first part where you have to look for informations about the place you have to go, you will get dragged in a fight to liberate a prisoner from English soldiers. After the fight, the prisoner is revealed to be the hero's/heroine's sibling. Before they split up (as they are now rivals), they stop to give each other a big hug.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: The Prince or the Princess of Time will tell Joan of Ark to go fight the English, and the Parisians to take over the Bastille prison.
  • Berserk Button: Furyos the Short absolutely hates being made fun of his height, and will turn very violent if this happens.
  • Big Bad: Each book has a different one.
    • Gouttard de Malgrâce in Le Carillon de la Mort. He's a French lord who took sides for England during The Hundred Years War and an Evil Genius who tries to create a chemical, in order to age the French armies and help England win the war.
    • The society of the Blood Mask and his leader abbot Goulot de Peillac in Le Masque de Sang. They try to prevent the Revolution and to secure the absolute monarchy.
    • The closest thing in L'Homme au Cheval de Brume is Wayward, a cruel Confederate general. The reader never meets him, but he's responsible for Oclock's imprisonment.
    • Peter Meduzz in Objectif: Apocalypse. Another Evil Genius who tries to flood the world in order to create his new perfect world.
  • Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti: Peter Meduzz has an actual sasquatch as a minion.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Bastien Frontouillard and abbot Goulot de Peillac in the second book.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: As he is an Affectionate Parody of James Bond villains, Peter Meduzz does this a lot. He gloats and monologues, he reveals his master plan to the captured heroes and he ''doesn't'' know when to just shoot them.
  • Catch Phrase: "Chaussette à poule!" by Hensock. The funny thing here is that this is the literal translation of his name in French.
  • Chekhov's Gun: You think that, since Furyos hates being called short, you'd know exactly what to do to get some of his saliva by making him angry, eh? Actually, calling him short is the worst option, since he will get overly violent and hit you. You just need to call him ugly.
  • The Chief's Daughter: The Prince of Time will be captured by a Native tribe, and will spare his life if he agrees to marry the Chief's daughter who has taken a liking to him. If the Princess of Time is captured, it will be the Chief's son. However, accepting the offer will lead to a Non Standard Game Over, since it means the Prince/Princess will be forced to remain in the tribe forever, unable to escape under inevitable penalty of death.
  • Cool Horse: The Fog Horse in the third book is a horse spirit who can point you the right path to take.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover of the first book is a serious offender. You never fight a giant black monster who catches you in its tongue while you battle naked with just a helmet and a sword as a dark cloaked figure watches.
  • Creepy Twins: The Quintuplets who are the minions of Peter Meduzz.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Peter Medduzz could use the water-multiplying crystals to save many lives and also become a very, very rich man adored forever by history. He uses it to cause floods and destroy a lot of stuff.
  • Damsel in Distress: Kind of subverted, since three of the four persons to rescue are men.
    • It can sometimes also happen to the Princess of Time, although she's just as likely to be a Damsel out of Distress.
  • Drunken Master: Hicboum the Mad, who is The Dragon to the Big Bad in the fourth book, is constantly drunk but this makes him even more of a fierce fighter, one of the most powerful enemies in the series.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Of course, there is the Princess of Time, but there's hardly any "Princess-ness" about her.
  • Evil Albino: Albino chameleons are fought in Gouttard's castle. According to Furyos, they are running amock because they are upset about not being able to change color!
  • Felony Misdemeanor: If you lie to the Native American witch doctor about where you're from, he will get VERY angry and send you tto be killed. Even though he is supposed to be on your side.
  • French Jerk: If you don't include any jerk character in the first two books (set in France), you could certainly have a special mention for the fastfood chef in the fourth book; not only is his cooking so bad it will make the protagonist sick, but he goes on a racist and xenophobic diatribe when meeting the hero/heroine. This shocks them, considering their previous adventures in France. And this is in a Eagleland setting!
  • Half-Identical Twins: The Prince and the Princess of Time are twins and are described as looking exactly alike. Despite this, the Princess often gets compliments about her beauty.
  • Handicapped Badass: Mimol the monk has half of his body paralyzed and turned into a jelly-like substance. Despite this, he is able to keep his balance very well and hold his own in a physical fight, his jellyfied side being impervious to wounds.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Mimol the monk is coughing a lot, due to excess phlegm. This cough eventually gets him to die, after the Prince or Princess fights him!
  • Injun Country: In the third book, of course.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: This is LampshadeHanged in the beginning of the first book. The Prince or the Princess of Time can search a house, pick up all the items he/she wants inside and then suddenly the owner sneaks on your back and says "So, have you found enough to make you happy?" But he will be very friendly about this and allow the hero to keep his findings.
  • Lethal Chef: Literal one. Mâchegras is a cook (working for the first Big Bad) who makes sausages out of any kind of meat, including rats and humans.
    • A straigher example in the fourth book: the protagonists stop at a dirty fastfood restaurant and if they order a hamburger to eat, the food will be so bad that they will lose hit points.
  • Licensed Sexist: A lot of characters when you play as the Princess of Time.
  • Mad Scientist:
    • Mimol the half-paralyzed monk makes hybrid creatures by sewing two different animal parts together.
    • Gouttard creates a chemical that will age thousands of soldiers.
    • Peter Meduzz designs a special crystal that can multiply water molecules.
  • Magical Native American: In the third book, although it is mostly just to summon the Fog Horse.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: Mimol has created hybrid animals by transplanting two different animals for each. These include a bear-pig, a crocodile-hippopotamus, a stag-peacock, a rat-pig, a rat-deer, a stag-calf, an eagle-swallow... several of them are just an excuse to make a pun in the original French. (ie rat-deer; "rat-daim", sounds just like "radin", which means "stingy").
  • Nominal Hero: In spite of his usefulness, the journalist John Bob de Golf (the reader's ally in the fourth book) is Only in It for the Money, as he hopes to write a good article about what's going on. During the story, the Prince/Princess even takes advantage of his greedy nature in order to make the guy help him/her.
  • Non-Indicative Name: The "Messengers of Time" from the title do not refer to the heroes but to the people the heroes must rescue.
  • Only Smart People May Pass: In the third book, at one moment, the Prince or Princess need to catch someone through paths in a canyon. Three Native Americans are sitting here, but are only giving hints in hand gestures... you'd think they could just point the way.
  • Owl Be Damned: Aymeric des Effraies and his wife are evil minions of Gouttard; they look like owls, and are named after the barn owl ("chouette effraie" in French).
  • The Password Is Always Swordfish: You need to guess a special number to open the door to the Blood Mask hideout. You do not find this specific combination anywhere beforehand, you are supposed to guess it by using "logic". What is the number? It is "100", because it sounds just like "sang" (French for "blood"). You'd think they'd input a more complicate password system.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: The Prince and the Princess of Time.
  • Shout-Out: In the third book Lucky Luke makes an appearance! He is not referred by his full name, but his clothing description is very accurate and even the Prince/Princess can tell he is the best gunslinger in the land just by looking at him.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: The Prince of Time seems to be more cool-headed than his more impulsive sister.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: The Princess of Time will dress as a man very often. Sometimes it is optional, sometimes it is compulsary.
  • The Wild West: Setting of the third book.

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