THE PRISONER OF ZENDA by Anthony Hope

The IDEA of this book really fascinated me. The actual book, while not quite a letdown, wasn’t what I’d hoped for. I stumbled upon something about it online and the concept of Ruritanian romance just caught my fancy for some reason. I love the idea of intrigue in a small, imaginary country. Anyway, I DID enjoy The Prisoner of Zenda but was mildly disappointed. My main complaint is the prose style. It isn’t bad or anything, just flat and ordinary. There isn’t any flair or color to the descriptions. An author like Robert Louis Stevenson or Arthur Machen would have created some real atmosphere. Anthony Hope just tells the story. Luckily, the story is fantastic! Hope’s central plot conceit is riveting and quite deftly developed. The characters are good too although I would have liked more ‘stage time’ for the villain Rupert of Hentzau. He was a LOT of fun! I also would have liked to know more about the Kingdom of Ruritania. Hope doesn’t really go into great depth about the place and that was what drew me in in the first place. I understand Hope wrote a sequel and a prequel. It would be interesting to see if his style matured at all. Bottom line, this is a decent adventure novel with a great plot but it could have been more. Ruritanian romance still interests me. I understand Stevenson himself wrote one. That would be interesting to read as would Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Mad King.  I recently picked up one of George Barr McCutcheon’s Graustark novels. Maybe that will do some of the things I’d been hoping for from this book.

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