The Scarlet Pimpernel

the-scarlet-pimpernel

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.

Happy Reading,

Saz

Ready Player One

ready-player-one-paperback-coverWhere to even begin? I added this book to my (never ending) ‘to read’ list a couple or so years ago. Yet for some reason I never felt inclined to pick it up. When I did eventually get round to picking it up, I found myself reading at a furious pace. I was completely enthralled by it.

The premise is as follows –

The year is 2044 and reality is rather an ugly and bleak place to be in. The only time Wade  truly feels alive is when he’s plugged in to an online utopia known as OASIS. He’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles and clues left behind by the OASIS’ creator. The first person to solve these puzzles is promised immense power and wealth. When Wade stumbles on the first clue, he finds himself in the middle of a race against some of the best players – players that are prepared to kill in order to win. If Wade wants to survive, he’ll have to win – and face the world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

Wade was a character that had been amazingly written. It’s been eons since I came across such a relatable and extremely likable protagonist. In some respects, Wade was one of the most perfect and realistic protagonists I’ve stumbled upon. The best thing about him for me, had to be his intelligence. I absolutely admire clever characters – especially those that work for it. Another thing that really struck me was how much I was able to relate and empathize with him as a reader – he seemed incredibly real in a sense. His whole character just completely threw me off – I honestly didn’t expect to like him to this extent.

“…as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it’s also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real.”

As well as this, the other characters were also incredible. They too appeared to be very realistic. There are very few books out there where all the characters have been written so skillfully – from the protagonist to the more background characters. For me, this was one of those books.

The plot was handled in a masterly fashion. It was fast paced, action packed and intricate. The whole concept of a treasure hunt competition placed within an immersive online environment was truly fascinating. The writing was just brilliant. I really liked how most things were not ‘convenient’ in terms of plot for the protagonist. There were just a couple of plot points did seem to be ‘convenient’ but this wasn’t a major issue. Although the whole book was astounding, it was the last part that really topped it for me. The lead up to the climax and then the climax itself was heart racing and thrilling.

“I’m not crazy about reality, but it’s still the only place to get a decent meal.”

What surprised me the most is how much I enjoyed reading this book despite not really knowing about the 1980’s – a lot of the references went straight over my head. Therefore, I cannot even begin to imagine how much a person who knows the 1980s will enjoy this book!

One small criticism I would make is the amount of ‘information dumping’ that happened. I felt at times that just as things were getting to a really interesting or intense stage, there would be a pause in the actual plot, where quite a lot of information would then be given to the reader. This above anything else was rather overwhelming and at times a tad frustrating.

“These three words were always the last thing an OASIS user saw before leaving the real world and entering the virtual one: READY PLAYER ONE”

To conclude, I enjoyed this book far more than I had originally anticipated. It had amazingly written characters and a brilliant plot. A few minor issues, but to be fair, these were very easily overlooked. It was a book that pretty much immediately captured my attention – I found it extremely hard to put down, to the point where I was considering calling in sick to work just so I could continue reading it!

Happy Sunday,

Saz