A classic which has languished on my shelves for far too long.

Publication year: 1894
Format: print
Publisher: Penguin Books
Page count: 140

This is an old swashbuckling romance story which has been filmed several times and also referred to in many books. It’s quite short and plot-driven.

Rudolf Rassendyll is a British gentleman of leisure who loves his leisure. His sister-in-law cajoles him into going abroad and he decides to visit Ruritania from because his great-grandmother is from there. The new king of Ruritania is about to be crowned and Rudolf thinks it would be fun to go to the coronation. He sets off.

But when he stops at a small inn in Zenda, strange things start to happen. He hears about the conflict between the new king, Rudolf, and his half-brother Michael, called Black Michael. They both want the throne also their beautiful cousin princess Flavia. When Rudolf strolls in the forest, he stumbles upon the king and his two loyal men. The king marvels because Rudolf looks almost exactly like the king. The king invites him to dinner. In the morning, when the king should continue to the coronation, Rudolf and the two guards find him drugged. Quickly, they decide that Rudolf should take the king’s place which he does. Unfortunately, when they return to get the king, after the coronation, they find out that the king has been kidnapped – no doubt by Black Michael. Rudolf has no choice but to continue the charade and also woo the beautiful princess.

This was short and quick read. It moves along quickly. While it’s mostly a fun adventure story, it also a love story. It’s sent in a time where duty and loyalty are regarded more than love so it’s not a happy romance.

The characters are very basic: Fritz and Sapt are loyal armsmen to the king and they keep Rudolf (mostly) out of trouble in the court. Michael is a jealous and scheming villain and he has the Six, a group of nefarious minions to do his bidding. Kind Rudolf is a drunk who cares more about his own pleasures than his kingdom. Flavia is at times a wilting flower or a head-strong princess, whichever serves the plot better. The plot is also quite simple and straight-forward. Still, this was an entertaining read.