Saturday, 25 February 2012

Review: The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

I first picked up The Scarlet Pimpernel in March last year and absolutely adored it. It had history, action, romance, terror, mystery and everything else we stubbornly demand from a good book. I immediately vowed to track down the rest of the books and get them read as soon as humanly possibly. Who knew it was a series? I didn't, and apparently there are seventeen - including two prequels and a spin-off biography. For some unknown reason though, the second book isn't in print even though all the others are - it's just some strange little black hole on the list. Regardless, I ran out and bought the third one, this one... and uhh, read it a full year later :) What can I say, my TBR pile ate it.

More adventures amongst the terrors of revolutionary France. No one has uncovered the identity of the famous Scarlet Pimpernel - no one except his wife Marguerite and his arch-enemy, citizen Chauvelin. Sir Percy Blakeney is still at large however, evading capture... 

This has a slightly different format to the original book, which explains the unfulfilling summary. It's a short story collection, not a novel. Normally that's not my kind of thing but the stories contained are written so beautifully that I was more than able to deal with it.

Unlike the first one, this requires a basic understanding of the French Revolution to really 'get' all of the stories. Primarily, a knowledge of the Reign of Terror and the leading figures, like Marat and Robespierre. You don't need to know all the ins and outs - we covered it in A-level five years ago (*cringes*) and I managed fine and dandy. I think having read The Scarlet Pimpernel first might suffice though. It would make sense without that, but it's a lot more fun if you have :)

The stories themselves contain just the same atmosphere as the original. Nearly all are told from the perspective of a potential victim of the guillotine, living in daily fear of the Committee of Public Safety knocking at their door . Their terror and relief are almost tangible - the point when their rescue has been pulled off is always wonderfully described. Their gratitude and awe rolls off them and out of the pages. It's a wonderful feeling.

I think I'd have liked a little more about the man himself though, and his wife. I really liked Marguerite Blakeney in the original, so it's a shame that she had only a passing mention here. Hopefully she'll pop up again in the later books.

A short review, I know, but I struggle to review short story collections. I would recommend reading it, but definitely start with The Scarlet Pimpernel. Oh, incidentally - I can't help but picture Chris Hemsworth as the Pimp himself. Perhaps without the big-ass hammer though.


  1. I must read The Scarlet Pimpernel. You make it sound so good in your opening paragraph :)

  2. did you ever watch the BBC series with Richard E. Grant back in '99?


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