I’m trying to look at books the way a librarian might, in order to help get me better at thinking from a reader’s point of view. Here are the other posts in the series.
The Prisoner of Zenda is an adventure story from 1894. Unlike a lot of the fiction written in that time period and earlier, the language isn’t laborious to read, and in fact is quite witty.
The book is most famous for its plot setup: two men who resemble each other meet. One of the men is a commoner. The other is the heir apparent of the country in which they find themselves, and about to be crowned.
Something happens to the heir, preventing him from being crowned. But being crowned is essential; otherwise, the king might lose his throne entirely.
So the second man, who really does closely resemble him, pretends to be the heir and gets crowned in his place, while trying to untangle the politics threatening the true king.
The action is fast and exciting; there is, as in The Princess Bride, fencing, fighting, torture, revenge…no giants, though.
In fact, an entire tradition of fiction arose out of The Prisoner of Zenda, called “Ruritanian fiction” after the country of Ruritania out of the book. Ruritanian fiction involves a fictional, nostalgic European country playing host to a tale of adventure fiction, often involving royalty and inheritance.
I would recommend this book for early teen and up. The language isn’t simple, but it’s not difficult either, and most of the concepts are presented very smoothly. The action happens quickly. There is violence, but nothing is described in graphic detail. Look to The Prisoner of Zenda for a catchy adventure that doesn’t need a lot of context to enjoy.
Looking for more book recommendations? I always include more in the Wonderland Press newsletter. Sign up here.