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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Prisoner of Zenda, Anthony Hope - THE classic adventure story
Thrilling chases, daring escapes, dashing heroes (and villains), kidnapped Kings, beautiful Princesses, dastardly evil plots, derring-do, swordfights, amazing coincidences, stalwart friendship and honour saving the day. This classic tale of adventure has it all.

This was one of the first `proper books' I read as a child, and it got me hooked on reading...
Published on 2 Feb. 2011 by Victor

versus
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Try the film version instead
This is a reasonably fun swashbuckling adventure story set for the most part in a mythical country called Ruritania. It is interesting to note that this wasn't originally intended as a boys' book but swiftly became one following publication. As with so many British romances from the Victorian period, it begins with a useless layabout in his twenties being impelled to...
Published 12 months ago by G. A. Reeves


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Prisoner of Zenda, Anthony Hope - THE classic adventure story, 2 Feb. 2011
By 
Victor (Hull, England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
Thrilling chases, daring escapes, dashing heroes (and villains), kidnapped Kings, beautiful Princesses, dastardly evil plots, derring-do, swordfights, amazing coincidences, stalwart friendship and honour saving the day. This classic tale of adventure has it all.

This was one of the first `proper books' I read as a child, and it got me hooked on reading. Unfortunately, no other adventure story I ever read quite matched the heights of this true original!

It tells the story of Rudolph Rassendyll, holidaying in the central European Kingdom of Ruritania. By chance it turns out Rassendyll is the exact double of the King. When the King is kidnapped by his evil brother Michael, it is up to Rassenyll to save the Kingdom by first impersonating the King so that no-one realises anything is wrong, then launching a daring night assault on Michael's castle to rescue the real King.

As well as a strong plot, the book is brought to life with great characters - the stout and implacable Colonel Sapt, the loyal young Fritz, the weak playboy King, the evil Black Michael and, of course, the devilishly dashing Rupert of Hentzau. Each is given a distinctive voice and really lives when one reads the book. Added to this, Hope had a great eye for action, describing fights scenes in such a manner as to leave you feeling quite breathless by the end of it. He also had an eye for the human story, with the motives of many of the characters examined, making their actions seem more believable and not just merely convenient plot devices.

This is a truly classic story, one that bears reading and re-reading. Definitely one to get reluctant young readers interested in books, and a great pece of escapism for the older reader. Highly recommended. Also check out the sequel `Rupert of Hentzau', in which the story is satisfactorily continued and concluded.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stirring stuff, 23 Mar. 2009
Some books are brilliant through the sheer beauty of the writing, others through the characterisation or the quality of thought on the subject matter. But there are some books that, quite simply, capture your imagination and hold it prisoner in another world.

"The Prisoner of Zenda" does just that. In 200 pages, one is transported with the hero into a world of adventure, intrigue and romance, amongst deep forests, in dark dungeons and splendid palaces. This world is peopled with brave heroes, dastardly villains and noble ladies. And who cares that some of the turns of the plot may seem far-fetched? This is pure escapism at its best.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect escape to a swashbuckling age, 20 Dec. 2008
You will not find a richer concentration of sword fighting, dramatic love, plots counter plots and downright intrigue than in `The Prisoner of Zenda'. It is a book where men ride with revolvers loaded and swords drawn eager to fight, whether it be for love or the King.

Set in the fictional European Kingdom of Ruritania the novel begins with the journey of Rudolph Rassendyll, `an English gentleman, a cadet of a good house, but a man of no wealth or position, nor of much rank' to see the crowning of the new King. Owing to a past family scandal Rudolph and the King are distant cousins and share a striking resemblance. With both wine and treachery to blame Rudolph ends up taking the King's place on the morning of the coronation and the actual heir is taken prisoner by his brother, the villainous Duke `Black Michael'. Rudolph is forced to continue this pretence, determined as he is to free the rightful King, for duty and honour but also driven as he is by his deepening love for the beautiful Princess Flavia.

First published in 1894 `The Prisoner of Zenda' maintains the codes of a different time. Unsullied by the violent misery of the early 20th Century, Hope's characters still fight for their honour and duty and lust after heroic deeds. The Prisoner of Zenda is a blissful peep round the corner of the century and beyond to a land of sword fighting gentleman on horseback, ladies in distress, treasonous plots and prisoners in cells deep within castles surrounded by great moats. The subject matter is distant but the prose is as familiar as if it were written today and the plot as pacy as an expensive mini-series. Indeed much of the charm of the novel comes from the luxuriant and honourable description of swordfights and the desperate and passionate scenes of love.

`The Prisoner of Zenda' is a short swashbuckling rush to another age. A perfect escape from the modern day.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Swash Buckling Fun, 14 May 2008
When reading I found myself surprised at how quickly and well the story unfolded, told as a narrative by Rudolf Rassendyll, the principal character, it skipped along quickly and drew me in without much effort, so much so that I read it at one sitting.

I greatly enjoyed his adventures in Ruritania, the humour, the deviousness and towards the latter part of the book the pathos. The characters were well drawn and although it was first published in 1894 it appeared to me that the style seemed timeless.

The plot is well known, an Englishman meets the crown prince of Ruritania and due to a romantic encounter, many years before, by a member of the Rassendylls and a member of the Elphbergs, it means that the two men are distant cousins, but more fortuitously it turns out, they also look so alike as to be mistaken one for the other, and so the story unfolds.

If you want adventure this is a good book to read, swashbuckling, chivalry, bravery and honour with romance and a choice of villainous enemies. Most enjoyable.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An unexpectedly frothy Victorian adventure, 11 Feb. 2011
By 
Katie Stevens "Ygraine" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Rudolph Rassendyll is an upper class English idler with a distinctive nose and red hair which suggest that rumours of a family connection to the royal family of Ruritania might just be true. As upper class English idlers were wont to do in the Victorian era, he decides to journey around Europe to kill some time and his travels soon lead him to Ruritania itself. There he meets the king the night before his coronation and, amused by their uncanny resemblance to one another the king (also called Rudolph, naturally) invites English Rudolph to celebrate with him. The next morning, the king's retainers are horrified to find that his villainous half brother, Black Michael, has drugged the king so that he will be unable to attend his own coronation. In desperation, Rudolph agrees to stand in for the king for the day, but by the time they return the king has been kidnapped and so the charade must continue until the king can be rescued from the castle of Zenda. Meanwhile, Rudolph must avoid attempts on his life, fool the nation and court the king's intended bride without falling in love with her himself.

This is the sort of book in which characters are black and white: every bad person is a dastardly, scheming, blackguard and every good person is honourable, gallant and virtuous. It's also the sort of book in which words like `blackguard' and `cad' (greatly underused in modern conversation, I feel) are thrown about with wild abandon. There are duels, mysterious notes and daring escapes a-plenty. It's a rollicking adventure story, full of implausible plot twists and unlikely situations in which many buckles are swashed and swashes are buckled. It's language is arch and witty and it's great fun to read.

The Prisoner of Zenda is also not at all what I expect when I think of Victorian literature. However, as it was first published in 1894, Victorian is what it is. When I think of Victorian literature, I tend to think of books that may be entertaining and absorbing but are rather weightier and more serious than Anthony Hope's novel. It's easy to forget, I think, that the Victorians enjoyed fun and froth in their literature just as much as we do now, and that for every Jude the Obscure there were many more lighthearted, silly novels such as this one. I'll definitely be looking for the sequel to this book, Rupert of Hentzau, for the next time I need to be reminded that the Victorian era wasn't all about morality and seriousness.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Really Swish Swash Buckler!, 11 May 2010
First published in 1894, and not out-of-print since, 'The Prisoner of Zenda' remains one of the slickest, sharpest and most entertaining of novels loosely bracketed as swash-bucklers. The story revolves around an English aristocrat, Rupert Rassendyll, and his adventures impersonating the kidnapped king of distant Ruritania, whose abduction by a band of villains takes place on the eve of his coronation.

Even from this scant synopsis, it is clear that the essential plot of 'The Prisoner of Zenda' is not brimming with originality. The idea of a doppelganger impersonator is a centuries-old story device. Only thirteen years earlier in 1881, Mark Twain had exploited the same basic scenario in his 'Prince & The Pauper'. More recently, John Sullivan played the same trick in a Christmas special 'Only Fools & Horses'!

However, leaving aside minor quibbles about Anthony Hope's reliance upon an old literary chestnut, what 'The Prisoner of Zenda' lacks in originality, it more than compensates for elsewhere. Firstly, in leading man, Rupert Rassendyll, Hope creates a daring, but believable character who quickly wins the reader's support. Throw in the rascally adversary, Black Michael, the beautiful Princess Flavia, plus a couple of staunch allies, and the gang's all here for a right royal romp! Secondly, the novel's pace is a great strength. In its relatively few pages, it packs in a wealth of intrigue, adventure and action, offering no flabby character analysis or philosophising. Compare this to Alexandre Dumas' word-fests which work so well today in abridged versions. Thirdly, the setting (Ruritania, being a thinly-veiled southern Germany with Gothic castles and forests galore) is the perfect backdrop for a tale of bravery and rescue.

In short, 'The Prisoner of Zenda' survives as tremendous entertainment for all fans of derring-do and adventure. Whilst it might be pushing things to far (as some of done) to compare Rassendyll to 007, it is possible to see the early shoots of the 20th century spy thriller emerging from the novel's pages. Indeed, one can be fairly certain that a copy of Zenda sat snugly on the shelves of Ian Fleming and John Buchan to name but a few. And if those two hypothetical fans don't twist your arm, then Robert Louis Stevenson was definitely an admirer and wrote to Hope to sing the book's praises. High praise indeed for a worthy tale.

Barty's core: 9/10

PS. If you enjoyed this review, have a skim through all of my reviews to find other authors whose books I have enjoyed. For example, if 'The Prisoner of Zenda' won you over, why not try 'The Great Impersonation' by E. Phillips Oppenheim?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Prisoner of Zenda, Anthony Hope - THE classic adventure story, 31 May 2010
By 
Victor (Hull, England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
Thrilling chases, daring escapes, dashing heroes (and villains), kidnapped Kings, beautiful Princesses, dastardly evil plots, derring-do, swordfights, amazing coincidences, stalwart friendship and honour saving the day. This classic tale of adventure has it all.

This was one of the first `proper books' I read as a child, and it got me hooked on reading. Unfortunately, no other adventure story I ever read quite matched the heights of this true original!

It tells the story of Rudolph Rassendyll, holidaying in the central European Kingdom of Ruritania. By chance it turns out Rassendyll is the exact double of the King. When the King is kidnapped by his evil brother Michael, it is up to Rassenyll to save the Kingdom by first impersonating the King so that no-one realises anything is wrong, then launching a daring night assault on Michael's castle to rescue the real King.

As well as a strong plot, the book is brought to life with great characters - the stout and implacable Colonel Sapt, the loyal young Fritz, the weak playboy King, the evil Black Michael and, of course, the devilishly dashing Rupert of Hentzau. Each is given a distinctive voice and really lives when one reads the book. Added to this, Hope had a great eye for action, describing fights scenes in such a manner as to leave you feeling quite breathless by the end of it. He also had an eye for the human story, with the motives of many of the characters examined, making their actions seem more believable and not just merely convenient plot devices.

This is a truly classic story, one that bears reading and re-reading. Definitely one to get reluctant young readers interested in books, and a great pece of escapism for the older reader. Highly recommended. Also check out the sequel `Rupert of Hentzau', in which the story is satisfactorily continued and concluded.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Action, adventure and romance, 18 Mar. 2010
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
Due to a royal indiscretion in a former generation Rudolf Rassendyll, second son of an English aristocratic family, looks exactly like the King of Ruritania. So when he travels to that country for the coronation, it's not long before he's drawn into a series of adventures involving illegitimate brothers, murder plots, daring rescues and true love with the beautiful princess Flavia...

Written in 1894 this epitomises the late Victorian romance full of honourable, gentlemanly heroes, caddish villains, swords and revolvers and plenty of action. This isn't at all a contemplative book but it's a brilliant read with fully-rounded characters, danger, action and even some quite moving romance. It reminds me of The Three Musketeers (Oxford World's Classics) set in a different historical context.

The most interesting character, for me, is Rupert of Hentzau, one of the most debonaire villains ever who later gets a whole sequel to himself.

The poignancy of this book is that it must have been a bestseller amongst so many of the men, especially officers, who went off to the first world war so enthused about the glory and honour of war - only to be slaughtered in their millions and disillusioned so completely.

So this really is a book rooted in a very different era where a gentleman's honour and courtesey were everything. A wonderful read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Prisoner of Zenda' held me captive!, 29 Jun. 2010
A Kid's Review
This is a wonderful, classic tale, well known in film and now in audiobook form. The story is unabridged and the masterful reading by Andrew Pugsley holds the listener enthralled from beginning to end. Character voices are beautifully defined, with no confusion over who is speaking. Each cd is separated into tracks, giving suitable pauses for refreshment breaks. Once started, I had to listen to it in its entirety! Wonderful!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A light read that is page turningly enjoyable, 28 July 2010
An action adventure story worthy of Dumas, with believable characters, careful plot development, fast unfolding events and poignant love interest.

Unambitious Gentleman of Leisure Rudolf Rassendyll is descended from the royal house of Elphberg by a scandalous past liaison. On the death of the Elphberg King of Ruritania he travels secretly to that country to view the coronation of Rudolf V but instead becomes embroiled in the plotting of Black Michael against the King. Rassendyll assumes the king's identity being almost identical and the race is on to save the real king from Black Michael's clutches and for Rassendyll to win the heart of the King's bride to be, Princess Flavia.

It's an absurd basis for a plot but Hope manages to make it convincing and plausible as he builds the situation incrementally. He draws the reader into the characters as much as the action and uses Rassendyll's growing relationships in this new country to great effect, especially his warm empathy with Count Fritz, his developing enmity against the wicked but dashing Rupert of Hentzau and the very tender relationship between Rassendyll and Flavia.

There is lots of action - sword fights, narrow escapes, moonlit chases and so on and the two sides display equal cunning and bravery in the struggle so that the ending, whilst not exactly in doubt, is made to seem uncertain and there are surprises and upsets along the way.

Hope has a good turn of phrase and knows when to take his foot off the narrative throttle and when to press on, making this a much more interesting book than the plot summary might suggest. In my view it's on a par with, say, Treasure island - and that's very good indeed.
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The Prisoner of Zenda (Oxford World's Classics)
The Prisoner of Zenda (Oxford World's Classics) by Anthony Hope (Paperback - 25 Jan. 2001)
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