Rating: 4 Stars ★★★★☆
“I wonder when in the world you’re going to do anything, Rudolf?” said my brother’s wife.
Rudolf Rassendyll is an easygoing gentleman with nothing much to do. That is, until he decides to visit the country of Ruritania. A scandalous affair in his family’s past means he bears a striking resemblance to the ruling house of Ruritania. In Ruritania he finds himself entangled in political intrigue, a plot for the throne and a quest to save the king.
I loved this book. It had everything I wanted in a swashbuckler: a great adventure, an interesting setting, great characters and a lot of action.
At first, the plot seemed a bit thin: an Englishman, Rudolf Rassendyll, who happens to look like the King of Ruritania impersonates him in order to save his throne. The king himself, is too drugged to go to his own coronation and later he is even taken prisoner.
It is my belief that, given the necessary physical likeness, it was far easier to pretend to be king of Ruritania than it would have been to personate my next-door neighbor.
However, the story absolutely works. It also doesn’t take itself too seriously. I loved the humorous narration.
“The difference between you and Robert,” said my sister-inlaw, who often (bless her!) speaks on a platform and oftener still as if she were on one, “is that he recognizes the duties of his position, and you see the opportunities of yours.”
I also really liked the political intrigue. The villain, Black Michael, knows that it is Rudolf Rassendyll on the throne and not the real king, since he has him in his power. But he can neither reveal the fact without incriminating himself nor kill the king before he kills Rassendyll.
It was a great game of cat and mouse between the two.
And all the characters were great. Sure, they weren’t all written in terrible depth, but I enjoyed reading about all of them.
The villain, Black Michael, is sufficiently sinister and wants the throne and the lovely Princess Flavia for himself. He has a cool entourage of minions, called The Six, of whom Rupert of Hentzau is the one given the most time.
Rupert is the real villain and he is delightful. He’s evil, he’s a bastard but he is a charming bastard. Rassendyll hates him with a passion, but is outwitted by him again and again.
For my part, if a man must needs be a knave, I would have him a debonair knave, and I liked Rupert Hentzau better than his long-faced close-eyed companions. It makes your sin no worse, as I conceive, to do it a la mode and stylishly.
We’ve also got Sapt, the old warrior and brain behind the whole plot to save the King’s throne by using Rassendyll and the brave knight and best friend and a fallen women, Antoinette de Maubard. Her part, on the whole, was really interesting as well.
I wanted to spend more time with these characters and in their world. It was a great read.
A great adventure novel full of swashbuckling heroes and dastardly villains.