books, ness talks books

Recountings: The Books of the Scarlet Pimpernel

(because it’s not the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel, it’s the Books of the Scarlet- what do you mean that’s a poor joke?!)


If you have never encountered him, the Scarlet Pimpernel is a fabulous fop, obsessed with lace and clothing by day and a dashing saviour of the aristos by … well, the other days. And nights.

I love him. Sir Percy Blakeney, Baronet. Finest bloke around. But! This is not the reason why this post is penned. I’ve recently read not one, but two books that have a Scarlet Pimpernel spin.


shockedI know. It’s hard to contain your enthusiasm, isn’t it?  But I shall compare, contrast and … [insert another word beginning with c] confuddule? (Wha-?)


Rook is set in a dystopian Paris. Something went kaboom! and the earth’s magnetic thingybobs shifted, satellites fell from the sky, Paris sank a wee bit and no one wants to use technology.

Things are pretty bleak in Paris, lots of people are dying, but vive la revolution!

Across A Star-Swept Sea is set in a world where genetic modification took a down-turn, resulting in generations of folk with damaged brains. It’s not nice. I think a nuclear war happened and now the folk on New Pacifica believe themselves to be the only survivors.

Everybody uses technology and there are killer orcas. You can change your DNA by downing a sludgy drink – it’s linked to palmports and fluttery things. And yes, I know this is an awful summary. On one island, Albion, all is seemingly well. On the other, Galatea, bad things are happening.

acrossastarsweptseaThey Seek Him Here // Scarlet Pimpernel Figure

Sophia Bellamy is the Red Rook of Rook, and Persis Blake is the Wild Poppy of Across a Star-Swept Sea.

Now, the Pimpernel himself has this … adventure drive/doin’ it for the thrill of the chase thing going on (forgive me, it’s been a while since I read the books) and Sophia has that. Only … I didn’t feel as if it was her. It felt as if it was a feeling that was lumped onto her character and didn’t need to be there at all. It didn’t seem to fit, alright?

Persis didn’t have the same thing. Which I suppose isn’t like the Pimpernel, but it felt true to her character.

Now … the Fop-ish, dandyish side that acts as the Pimpernel’s cover? Persis has a little of it, but nothing beats the Great Percy. Nothing.

It Must Be True Love // Marguerite St Just

In Rook, there is a character called Spear.

Sink me! The fellow is a blithering buffoon

There is a one-sided love triangle. I prefer my books to be love triangle free. I can’t help it. And Spear deserves to stamp on some Lego bricks. Or something dreadful like that.

I felt that Across A Star-Swept Sea had a better Marguerite figure. Rook‘s lead hero – whose hair and eyes are frequently mentioned (red and blue, if you’re wondering) – is a sort of mix between a Percy and a Marguerite. Or maybe Sophia is part Marguerite. I don’t know.

The Figure Clad In Black, Great Evil In His Wake // Chauvelin

rookRook‘s villain was crazed and liked flipping coins and worshiping fate. (Perfectly normal activities, I’m sure.)

(Upon thinking about it, I wonder if he would like the song Que Sera Sera?)

Across A- I’m Not Typing The Whole Title Out Again had a teenage girl/young woman in the roll of the Evil One.

In Rook you have the Razor, AKA La Guillotine. In the Across A Star-Swept Sea, it is worse. The revolutionists drug the aristos, causing their brains resemble vegetables, vanquishing thought and extinguishing personality.

When you lose your mind, do you even know that it’s gone?

Across A Star-Swept Sea


Tell me. Or I’ll put pepper in your snuff-box.

I would dare to say that Rook is a story inspired by the Scarlet Pimpernel (in fact, if I recall correctly, the book is mentioned in it. Very meta). Across a Star-Swept Sea is a retelling. I don’t believe that you really can compare them (though I just did so … pfft).

I really enjoyed Across a Star-Swept Sea. The heroine was likeable, and her family was too (oh, but the heart ache!). Rook … the finale was thrilling. The middle wasn’t. Alas, Rook and I will never be friends, beautiful though I found its cover to be.

Nothing is quite as good as the original, and I’ll leave it to Percy himself to finish this (slightly rambling) post off nicely:

They seek him here, they seek him there
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere
Is he in heaven or is he in hell?
That demned elusive Pimpernel

The Scarlet Pimpernel can be read here // Rook // Across A Star Swept Sea

6 thoughts on “Recountings: The Books of the Scarlet Pimpernel”

  1. I’m a poet, and YOU did not know it.

    There’s only one Percy in the world and always shall be. But I’ve heard a lot of good about the Sea book, don’t feel like doing the title. I might try it someday. Maybe

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