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The Prisoner of Zenda (illustrated by…

The Prisoner of Zenda (illustrated by Charles Dana Gibson) (original 1894; edition 1898)

by Anthony Hope

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1,786553,932 (3.77)203
Title:The Prisoner of Zenda (illustrated by Charles Dana Gibson)
Authors:Anthony Hope
Info:Grosset & Dunlap, New York
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, 19th century, adventure, Britain, collectible

Work details

The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope (1894)

  1. 40
    The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska, Baroness Orczy (LKAYC)
  2. 20
    Royal Flash by George MacDonald Fraser (AlexBr)
    AlexBr: Harry Flashman believes Anthony Hope got the idea for 'The Prisoner of Zenda' from him.
  3. 10
    Sherlock Holmes and the Hentzau Affair by David Stuart Davies (simon_carr)
  4. 00
    The Mad King by Edgar Rice Burroughs (Michael.Rimmer)
  5. 00
    Green Mansions by W. H. Hudson (wisewoman)
    wisewoman: Both are stories of a young man thrown into a foreign culture and forced to survive on his wits. And the love stories both don't have the typical happy ending.
  6. 00
    Westmark by Lloyd Alexander (cf66)
    cf66: L'argomento ha dei punti in commune. Secondo me c'è una filiazione come genere di romanzo.
  7. 00
    Greenmantle by John Buchan (chrisharpe)

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» See also 203 mentions

English (50)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (1)  All (53)
Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
Swashing and buckling, bought half for the shiny cover, but oh so genuinely entertaining. Simply indulgent, but there's nothing bad in that. Every page keeps you reading with more focus and speed because you know what will happen next yet don't want it spoiled. I love a red-headed hero. ( )
  likecymbeline | Apr 1, 2017 |
The Prisoner of Zenda is the quintessential classic swashbuckler, a straight-up adventure story full of dashing gentlemen, blushing damsels, roguish villains and a lot of swordplay and riding under the cover of night. It follows an English nobleman who bears a striking physical resemblance to the soon-to-be-crowned king of the (fictional) country Ruritania. When the king is kidnapped by his fiendish brother Black Michael – seriously, that's his name – and imprisoned in his imposing castle at Zenda (hence the title), our hearty protagonist must pose as the king – falling in love with the queen-to-be in the process – before launching a bold assault on the castle, defeating the dastardly villains and returning triumphant to bold cheers all round. Huzzah!

It is, as you've probably guessed, very dated – with its attitudes to royalty (all for it), women (emotional and careless, one and all) and the upper-classes (superior breeding) – and written in an archaic formal-conversational style that reminded me of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. But its quaintness and simplicity is also its strength; not only does the style and the straightforwardness of the plot make it very easy to read, but an unashamedly romantic adventure like this does still have its charms in our modern, cynical era (perhaps even more so because of this). There's a lot of lofty speechifying, thigh-slapping and manly choking-back-of-tears, and people doing things for duty and honour and "for the King!" This is a world – so alien to us – in which a 'word of honour' from your most despicable villain is as binding as one from your sainted mother. Adventure stories such as this might have descended into parody nowadays, but sometimes you can't help but get swept up. At one point, a character even leaps onto a window ledge laughing, sword in hand, before diving out to escape. Come on, who doesn't love that?

And, speaking of parody, the main draw of the book for me was that my favourite author, George MacDonald Fraser, sent up The Prisoner of Zenda in his 1970 book Royal Flash (more of an affectionate homage, I must stress). I can now see where Fraser got his inspiration from in Anthony Hope's book, and why the former's imagination was captured by the roguish Rupert of Hentzau in particular.

I must also remember that this story was one of the codifiers of the classic adventure tropes, and deserves respect for that. It's a notable exception to the trend I have noticed in my reading that classics rarely match up to their reputation. This one did; it's an entertaining page-turner. The romance plot was also quite tragic – I am reluctant to say 'sub-plot' as it begins to take centre-stage towards the end – and its outcome is one bound up so completely in old-fashioned notions of honour and duty that I can't help but think of The Prisoner of Zenda as a time-capsule to be treasured; a story told with an innocence that would be all but impossible today. ( )
  MikeFutcher | Mar 18, 2017 |
A silly though often imitated plot device, stretched thin over a book that is short anyway. Well, at least I know what the story is now. ( )
  soylentgreen23 | Jul 3, 2016 |
[I was doing some maintenance and decided to add some of my older reviews. I had to guess at a rating for this, since I read this during a period when I wasn't even privately rating books.]

At first, I enjoyed this book. I could barely follow all the long paragraphs about the connection between Rudolph and the Ruritanian royal family, and Rudolph himself was a bit too driftless for my taste, but I got excited when more hints of the “impostor” storyline I knew was coming began to turn up. When Rudolph and the King finally met, I settled down for an adventure I was sure was going to be fun.

The problem was, it wasn't as fun as I expected. Rudolph seemed to love rushing into battles, the dashing hero doing his part to avenge fallen comrades and save Ruritania and the King from Black Michael. Unfortunately, all I could think was, “Why is he risking his life? And is the risk even worth it?”

Rudolph is not a Ruritanian. He had barely even met the King before he was suddenly enlisted to become the impostor King. I suppose I could see why he might have initially agreed. At first, all he was really agreeing to was being the King at the coronation – it was a short-term thing, and probably not too difficult. After the King was kidnapped, though, continuing to be the impostor King meant he was risking his life for a country that wasn't really his and for a man he hardly even knew. I'm guessing this was supposed to be admirable, dashing, and heroic. I just thought it was a bit stupid, in large part because I couldn't see why anyone, much less a near stranger, would want to risk their life for this particular king.

If I remember right, several Ruritanians sang Duke Michael's praises and commented that, although they felt like they knew him, they had barely even seen the King. In temperament, the King seemed similar to Rudolph: lacking in ambition and a sense of responsibility, but completely willing to take advantage of the perks his position gives him. In the small portion of the book in which the King is free, healthy, and conscious, he is having fun and drinking. He doesn't seem to realize (or, if he does, care) that his people don't necessarily like him. Yes, I know that people don't have to like their monarchs, but if a monarch with a rival wishes to stay alive and in power for long, it would probably help to have popular opinion on his side.

Several of the King's men made comments along the lines of, “Rudolph, you would have made a better king” - so, even the King's own men would have preferred someone else. The only thing that saved him was that they, at least, did not feel that Michael was the better option. I couldn't really see how Rudolph made any better of a king than the real King, though – the only vaguely kingly skills he exhibited were his ability to make Princess Flavia fall in love with him and his ability to dash fearlessly into thrilling battles without being killed.

Overall, the characters were weak. Like I said, I didn't particularly like Rudolph or the King – I have a feeling that Hope intended for readers to root for them and be on their side, but I didn't think that either of them would make good kings, unless we're talking figureheads. Although Black Michael seemed to have popular support, I didn't find him to be a more sympathetic character, what with drugging and imprisoning his half-brother and coldly dumping his mistress for Princess Flavia. Princess Flavia might as well have been a piece of cardboard for all the personality she exhibited. The only character that intrigued me even a little was Madame de Mauban. Unfortunately, the book was written from Rudolph's perspective, and he had, at best, a somewhat condescending view of women, which meant that he explained away Madame de Mauban's behavior as an example of feminine irrationality.

It's a good thing I kind of disliked Rudolph and found Princess Flavia to be completely uninteresting, or I might have been angrier about how things ended.I'm guessing that Hope meant to show how noble Flavia and Rudolph were, and how concerned they were with doing their duty (meaning that Rudolph has supposedly grown a bit since the beginning of the book?). While the ending Hope chose was probably more realistic than if Flavia had run away with Rudolph, I thought the execution of that ending was gag-worthy. Rudolph and Flavia had known each other for three months. In that time, Rudolph supposedly came to love Flavia so much that he, a 29-year-old male who previously seemed to enjoy chasing after women, decided to live out the rest of his life clutching his chaste, tragic love to his breast. Flavia of course had to do her duty and marry the King of Ruritania – so, what, for the rest of her life she'll only coldly tolerate the King because he's not Rudolph? Sounds like fun.

Overall, I wasn't a huge fan of this book. I enjoyed some of the action-filled parts as I was reading them, but the more I think about the book now that I've finished it, the less I like it. I have downloaded the sequel, Rupert of Hentzau, but I don't know when I'll get around to reading it. I can only hope that Hope has Rupert really work the whole mustache-twirling dashing villain thing, because then I might have more fun. Part of me hopes that Madame de Mauban will show up in the sequel (supposedly, Rupert loves her), but I have a feeling she'd be better in my mind than Hope could ever have written her.

(Original review, with read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.) ( )
  Familiar_Diversions | Jun 29, 2016 |
The Prisoner of Zenda – Anthony Hope

Rollicking adventure story first published in 1894. Sometimes referred to as a children’s story, but it was not intended as such. It was more along the lines of a political thriller, with Hope being the Ludlum of his day.
Rudolph Rassendyll is a young Englishman, a somewhat aimless second son of a noble family. It is an old family scandal that an ancestress of theirs had a liaison with a King of the Balkan state of Ruritania, and that occasionally a Rassendyll is born with the distinctive looks of the Royal House of Elphsberg. Rudolph is one of these throwbacks. Since a new King Rudolph is about to be crowned, who bears a strong resemblance to the English Rudolph, our hero thinks it will be amusing to travel to Ruritania to see the coronation. What he doesn’t know is that a plot is afoot to assassinate King Rudolph, set in motion by his half-brother, Black Michael. Through a series of contrivances, the King is kidnapped and imprisoned in the Castle of Zenda, and his loyal supporters enlist the English Rudolph to impersonate the King until he can be rescued. Alas, along with state duties and plotting a rescue, he also has to court the beautiful and virtuous Princess Flavia, who is destined to marry the King. Of course, he falls madly in love, as does she, wondering why her playboy cousin who never appealed before is suddenly so manly and dashing. And we are off to the races . . . . . you can pretty much figure out where the story goes from here.

As adventure novels go, it’s quite fun, though not profound by any means. It does not rank up with the truly great adventure classics of mistaken identity, such as Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities" or Dumas’ "The Man In the Iron Mask". Still, it is an entertaining quick read, and it is interesting to compare the traits of a popular hero of the late Victorian, empire-building period vs. what you would see in a contemporary thriller.

" ( )
  tealadytoo | May 31, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (34 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Anthony Hopeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gibson, Charles DanaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McCaig, IanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Minter, AndyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roberts, S. C.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rosoman, LeonardIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Watkins, TonyEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilby, JamesNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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'I wonder when in the world you're going to do anything, Rudolf?' said my brother's wife.
Look where I would, I saw nothing that made life sweet to me, and I took my life in my hand and carried it carelessly as a man dangles an old glove.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140621318, Paperback)

Rudolph Rassendyll's life is interrupted by his unexpected and personal involvement in the affairs of Ruritania whilst travelling through the town of Zenda. He is shortly on the way to Streslau, the capital, where he finds himself engaged in plans to rescue the imprisoned king.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:36 -0400)

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Rudolph Rassendyll's life is interrupted by his unexpected and personal involvement in the affairs of Ruritania whilst travelling through the town of Zenda. He is shortly on the way to Streslau, the capital, where he finds himself engaged in plans to rescue the imprisoned king.… (more)

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