The Prisoner Of ZendaA Great classic adventure God save the king both kings Getting myself a library card for the first time in years has enabled me to binge on lightweight adventures it seems I don t remember seeing one of the several film versions of this, though that s not saying much, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence and all that Lying in bed last night, reading the last few pages of this book it seemed so clearly related to A Princess of Mars and at least two other books I ve munched down recently That connection this morning, even after coffee, seems cloudy and obscure which is perhaps a sign that this review needs a beer before it can reach a satisfactory conclusion.But anyway, in case you have never heard of this story before, it was written towards the end of the nineteenth century, the author was a practising barrister not to be confused with a barista which is to say a lawyer with the right of audience before the courts view spoiler in Britain the lawyering business is divided between barristers, who have the right to speak in courts, and solicitors who by and large don t, this is a very satisfactory arrangement except for those who have to pay for it hide spoiler Anthony Hope S Swashbuckling Romance Transports His English Gentleman Hero, Rudolf Rassendyll, From A Comfortable Life In London To Fast Moving Adventures In Ruritania, A Mythical Land Steeped In Political Intrigue Rassendyll Bears A Striking Resemblance To Rudolf Elphberg Who Is About To Be Crowned King Of Ruritania When The Rival To The Throne, Black Michael Of Strelsau, Attempts To Seize Power By Imprisoning Elphberg In The Castle Of Zenda, Rassendyll Is Obliged To Impersonate The King To Uphold The Rightful Sovereignty And Ensure Political Stability Rassendyll Endures A Trial Of Strength In His Encounters With The Notorious Rupert Of Hentzau, And A Test Of A Different Sort As He Grows To Love The Princess Flavia Five Times Filmed, The Prisoner Of Zenda Has Been Deservedly Popular As A Classic Of Romance And Adventure Since Its Publication In Rereading this for the 400th time in prep for writing my own version for Riptide s Queered Classics series This time, I read it from the perspective that the narrator is a lying SOB It s amazing how well it lends itself to that Brilliant book though, with flashes of utter genius in the writing, along with all the expected flaws of Victorian pulp Thus he vanished reckless and wary, graceful and graceless, handsome, debonair, vile, and unconquered Purrrrrr. Not as good as the Flashman version, but essential background nonetheless.Working through my elementary Persian grammar, I notice that the Persian word for prison is , zendan Looking around, I find other people who have pointed this out e.g here but so far I haven t come across anyone who knows if it s than a coincidence. The Prisoner of Zenda is one of those books I ve been meaning to read for about twenty years Over the Thanksgiving holiday I finally took the time to read this classic adventure written by Anthony Hope in 1894.The Prisoner of Zenda brings the fairy tale of Mark Twain s The Prince and the Pauper 1888 and Pudd nhead Wilson 1893 4 into the adventure genre for adults Anthony Hope s story of a king kidnapped on the eve of his coronation and his English cousin who takes his place is derring do at its best.Sure the story has been done over and over again but that s because the story is so entertaining It was written at at time before two world wars forever altered the map of Europe Ruritania exists in a time when it was possible to still imagine tiny kingdoms and principalities tucked among the better known countries Think of Ruritania existing along side the duchy of Luxembourg and the principality of Monaco.The hero and narrator of Zenda is twenty nine year Rudolf Rassendyll who shares a name and certain physical features with soon to be crowned Rudolph IV of Ruritania Unfortunately for all those involved, Rudolph IV is an idiot and easily falls prey to a plot to take the crown away from him and possibly end his life To keep things in check while the king can be found and rescued, Rudolf Rassendyll must play the king.Throughout the narrative Rassendyll gives amusing commentary on politics and the responsibilities of leadership All the while he is putting himself in harms way both in his portrayal of the king and in trying to rescue Rudolf IV.I am releasing the copy I read soon through BookCrossing as it came to me from another member I will however be keeping my eyes out for a nice hardback edition for my personal collection. I m staying with 4 stars, for old times sake This Victorian era novel delighted me as a child, back before the invention of the Young Adult genre, when I read anything I could get my hands on It had been years since I last re read it, so it held some surprises for me this time around There s a zest and verve to the writing that s perfect for a swashbuckling adventure novel Our hero, Rudolf Rassendyl, is of a rogue than I remembered sexual adventures are even hinted at gasp Somebody pass me the smelling salts It s difficult for me to imagine anyone coming to this book as an adult, today, and being willing to cut it much slack It s very much a product of its time but then, it s a rare book that isn t Rudolph, as a handsome, wealthy young British aristocrat, without a title but with plenty of means to indulge his whims, is oblivious white male privilege personified Yes, a true Victorian hero with all the self satisfaction that implies His love for the Princess Flavia is insta, and there s plenty of noble forbearance, manly bonding through barely repressed emotions, and stiff upper lipping.And then there s Rupert of Hentzau He starts out as a minor villain in the story, appearing on page for the first time only at the halfway mark, but then proceeds to steal the author s attention and reduce the main villain to pretty much an afterthought in the reader s mind He steals Rudolph s attention as well Rudolph simply cannot help admiring Rupert s handsomeness, his youthful figure, his thick curly hair, his insolent smile, his dauntless courage, his free spirit, his physical grace, his irrepressible humor in the face of danger Princess Flavia who It s such an amusing case of an author being seduced by his own creation Unsurprisingly, the sequel to this book is wait for it Rupert of Hentzau.Such fun Seriously flawed from the modern standpoint, but I sure was lucky to have found this book when I was a kid. On a raw and damp morning in the England of 1733, according to the author s premise, a British nobleman named James Rassendyll fought a duel with a visiting prince of the House of Elphberg, the royal family of the fictional Central European country of Ruritania Severely wounded, the prince returned home, where he recovered and subsequently ascended the throne, married and continued the royal line James contracted a severe respiratory illness on the occasion and died of it this was the pre antibiotic era six months later, leaving his beautiful widow seven months pregnant with her first son When born, the boy was legally presumed to be her husband s child and succeeded to the earldom BUT, he proved to have the distinctive Elphberg long, sharp, straight nose, dark red hair and blue eyes, features not typical of the previous Rassendylls Even in an age before DNA testing and real knowledge of genetics, this provoked conjecture Of course, in the 18th century, despite both lip service to Christian morals and a traditional sexual double standard, the English aristocracy tended to politely overlook rampant marital infidelity by both husbands and wives, as long as neither spouse was tactless enough to mention it in public Elphberg features continued to crop out in the subsequent generations of Rassendylls, who privately knew though they didn t broadcast the fact that they were essentially an out of wedlock branch of the Elphbergs In the author s present, the Elphberg look is particularly marked in younger son Rudolf He s a former Army officer, now unemployed and having the late Victorian equivalent of a trust fund not at all interested in being employed His military training has made him very competent with a sword and a pistol, and a good rider he also happened to be educated in a German university, so is German speaking Although the rupture of World War I tended to subsequently obscure this, in real life England and Germany had a lot of that kind of cultural contact in the pre war generations, and even a fair amount of intermarriage in the aristocratic families so Rudolf s college experience isn t at all unrealistic The Ruritanian king having died recently, Rudolf decides on a whim to attend the coronation of the new king, his namesake Prince Rudolf When the two meet, they discover that they re physically almost exact doubles That resemblance is going to come in very handy, because trouble is brewing in Ruritania King Rudolf s not exactly loving younger half brother Duke Michael would prefer to be king himself and neither filial affection nor respect for human life are very high on his list of values.Rudolf Rassendyll is a first person narrator, and it took me a while to warm up to him He came across to me initially as too flippant, and exuding a smug attitude of entitlement that I consider one of the worst consequences of hereditary aristocracy But his tone gets serious before long and this proved to be at once a very stirring tale of intrigue, violence, plotting and counter plotting, with a lot of suspense and action in the face of very real challenges and jeopardies, and a serious exploration of challenging questions of right and wrong, the meaning and value of honor and integrity, of choices between self service and self sacrifice The clean romantic component of the story is flawed by an insta love factor which, on examination, isn t too credible but it still lends a very real, compelling emotional power to the tale Hope doesn t examine the political and socio economic realities of the class conscious, largely elitist and exploitative social order in which his characters move an order destined to be swept away in about 20 years in the convulsions of the Great War , and that s a detrimental blind spot But he also evokes a mind set of principle, honor and integrity which the war would also largely sweep away and which is much missed by those who have the discernment to miss such things.One final comment needs to be made Another Goodreader, commenting on the book, complained of the lack of female characters, save for the simpering princess and a housekeeper whose role is minor However, Princess Flavia never simpers here she comes across as a strong inside, intelligent and morally sensitive woman of patriotism and principle, who inspires real respect And she s far from the only significant female character here Antoinette de Mauban, Lady Burlesdon, and even the innkeeper s daughter all play important roles in the story, in their different ways, and they re all well drawn, and even sympathetic characters despite foibles , who come across as capable people, not caricatures of female ineptitude Granted, in keeping with 19th century gender attitudes, they aren t primarily fighters though one might give some characters, and readers, a surprise in that regard But this is far from being the kind of guys only, no girls allowed book that some of the novels by Hope s contemporary, Robert Louis Stevenson, are.Overall, this was a book I liked than I expected to I d recommend it to all fans of Romantic classics, and especially of action adventure fiction. It follows the swashbuckling adventures of Rudolf Rassendyll, an Englishman who bears a striking resemblance to the king of Ruritania. It was not an interesting read, though it seemed to be at first I started with some expectations but I soon realized I am going to be bored Yet I kept reading and did not stop till I finished the novel Now, my reactions about the book are not all positive The premise of the book, as seemed to me, was unrealistic but plausible But it was not this that upset me it was the shallow characterization done by the author.The characters were shallow, and uninspiring Anthony Hope never tried to give any depth to the characters in the book, and there were no great characters that I could relate to But these problems came to my notice when I was already half way through the book So I decided to finish the book and see what happens in the end My endeavor remained unrewarded It was the constant tension between the hero and the antagonist in the story, that kept me moving forward and is the only reason I am giving this book two stars.