4.21.2013

The Prisoner of Zenda, by Anthony Hope

The Prisoner of Zenda
I've been hearing about Anthony Hope's The Prisoner of Zenda for years now, and last week I finally decided to see if it was all it was cracked up to be. I'm happy to report that I had a great time reading this swashbuckling romp. There's mistaken identity, romance, and a lot swordplay. At barely 150 pages, there's a lot of story crammed into this novella.

We meet our protagonist, Rudolph Rassendyll, as he is being prodded by his sister-in-law to make something of his life. Rudolph doesn't have a profession, isn't in the military, and really just enjoys having a good time. And it drives his sister-in-law up the wall. To get out of the house, Rudolph declares that he's going off to Tyrol--but he actually plans to go to Ruritania to learn more about where one of his ancestors came from. Once there, and after accidentally meeting the king-to-be, Rudolph discovers that he is almost identical to the king. And when the king-to-be is drugged by his jealous and ruthless half-brother, the king's men convince Rudolph to take his place in order to avoid a political crisis.

At this point, the plot twists and turns as Rudolph spars with the king's brother, Michael, and his henchmen. Meanwhile, the king remains a prisoner in Michael's castle at Zenda. To complicate matters even more, Rudolph falls in love with the king's intended--and she with him. After a few chapters, things get even more complicated when one of Michael's henchmen, Rupert of Hentzau, turns out to be following his own plans. Oh, and he's a complete psycho, which makes the ending highly entertaining.

I had a lot of fun reading The Prisoner of Zenda. I don't know if I'll read the sequel, Rupert of Hentzau, because I accidentally spoiled it for myself by reading the summary on Wikipedia. The summary makes it sound like it takes the high adventure of Zenda and turns it into a tragedy. And yet, I really want to spend some more time with Rudolph and Rupert and Flavia.

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