Plot Summary: [from goodreads:] “Anthony Hope’s swashbuckling romance transports his English gentleman hero, Rudolf Rassendyll, from a comfortable life in London to fast-moving adventures in Ruritania, a mythical land steeped in political intrigue. Rassendyll bears a striking resemblance to Rudolf Elphberg who is about to be crowned King of Ruritania. When the rival to the throne, Black Michael of Strelsau, attempts to seize power by imprisoning Elphberg in the Castle of Zenda, Rassendyll is obliged to impersonate the King to uphold the rightful sovereignty and ensure political stability.”
My Book Review: This story became an immediate favorite years ago when I first saw the old 1952 film version (starring Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr) when I was 15 years old. I was staying at my grandpa’s and watched it over and over. There was something about the swashbuckling adventure full of danger, intrigue, cloak and dagger, and romance that really had me at hello. In fact, I believe it was one of the first titles I ever entered into my To-Read notebook that I wanted to make sure I read the novel of someday. It’s been years for me to get around to it, and I was a little bit afraid that the book would let me down in comparison.
This book is not terribly long or hard to get through. I found that the movie version I loved from the first followed the plot pretty well, except for maybe some scenes removed to make for better film-length comprehension. The book was exciting and fun to read, though I probably would have enjoyed it a little more had I read it first before the movie. Some parts, such as the Granger-Kerr chemistry is better than the book. But it’s a great adventure in a vintagey, old-fashioned sort of way. I’m always in the mood for impersonation stories, intrigue, and suspense. And I think the tale’s a bit of a classic in that a hard, bittersweet decision is made at the end that leaves you sighing and wishing… Sort of like Casablanca.
If this sounds like a story you would enjoy diving into, just know that it is actually the second in the Ruritania Trilogy. I’ve read the first book The Heart of Princess Osra (see book review here), but the two novels are more standalone than anything. In fact, The Prisoner… is much more of an interesting read than the first. I will be reading the third in the series, Rupert of Hentzau at some point in time, and I understand that particular one is a better connected sequel to PoZ.
So grab this book if you want an escape to the mountains of the fictional country of Ruritania, where old castle walls, heraldry, and swordfights await you!
“This is movie magic at its mightiest!…” Ha, ha! 😀