I was very excited to read this book. The synopsis drew me in straight away. Everything seemed to be perfect in terms of plot, context and characters. Unfortunately after reading it, all that was left was an immense feeling of disappointment mixed with a hint of confusion.
Here’s a brief synopsis –
A man defies the French revolutionaries by rescuing scores of aristocrats from the blade of the guillotine. He goes by the name ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’. But the ruthless French agent, Chauvelin is determined to hunt him down and expose his true identity.
One of the most important aspects in any book has to be the characters and their development as the story progresses. I’ve continuously found that the books that disappoint me the most are the ones that contain little to none character development. Regretfully, this was one of those books. Absolutely none of the characters had been properly fleshed out nor showed any development as the story progressed.
“It was asserted that these escapes were organised by a band of Englishmen, whose daring seemed to be unparalleled, and who, from sheer desire to meddle in what did not concern them, spent their spare time in snatching away lawful victims destined for Madame la Guillotine.”
I was absolutely delighted when Marguerite was introduced as ‘the wittiest woman in all of Europe’. This to me suggested intelligence, which is one quality I really admire in a character. And not only this but she was female which just added to my delight. I’m not going to lie but I was rather excited that there was a powerful intelligent female character in the story, especially given that it was written during a time when women were considered nothing more than the fairer sex. However, my delight was rather short lived when it came apparent that Marguerite did absolutely zilch to further the plot after a few chapters. What had happened to her intelligence and wits beyond this point is a complete mystery.
The plot moved at a good pace. Despite this, it felt like nothing had really happened. This was probably because the narration followed Marguerite all the way through, and her role gradually decreased as she soon became a spectator to the action and then a typical helpless damsel in distress. It would have been amazing to have the narration follow both Marguerite and Percy – especially because so little is seen of the latter.
“He was calmly eating his soup, laughing with pleasant good-humour, as if he had come all the way to Calais for the express purpose of enjoying supper at this filthy inn, in the company of his arch-enemy.”
Another aspect that bothered me was the lack of sword fighting and swashbuckling. I expected there to be some intense scenes, but these never appeared. This was probably my own fault as I clearly had misinterpreted the genre of the book altogether – it turned out more to be a romance as opposed to the adventure I had expected. I also noticed that despite the backdrop of the Reign of Terror, there wasn’t a sense of imminent danger. Whilst reading it, my heart wasn’t racing nor was I holding my breath.
There was one brilliant scene towards the middle to end of the book that I found myself chuckling at. The comedy was on point, and there was an undercurrent of tension. Yet this was not enough to save the book as a whole.
Overall, I was incredibly disheartened after I finished reading this book. To be honest, it seemed a little pointless. Although I couldn’t fault the actual writing itself, the plot combined with the characters just didn’t work for me.