Book Reviews, Fantasy

Review: Scarlet by Genevieve Cogman

Revolutionary France is no place to be, especially for aristocrat vampires facing the guillotine. But the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel are determined to rescue them. And they have an ace up their sleeve: Eleanor, a lowly maid from an English estate with a striking resemblance to French royalty.

For Eleanor, the League and their legendary deeds are little more than rumour – until she’s drawn into their most dangerous plot yet. The mission? Travel to France in disguise, impersonate Queen Marie Antoinette and rescue the royal family. If they succeed, it’ll be the heist of the century. But there’s more to fear than ardent Revolutionaries. For Eleanor stumbles across a centuries-old war between vampires and their fiercest enemy. And they’re out for blood . . .

Thank you to NetGalley and PanMacmillan for the free copy in exchange for an honest review.

Revolutionary France with aristocratic vampires? How could I say no to such a premise?! Especially with such a stunning cover… And the easy style of writing and sense of adventure throughout drew me straight in. If you, like myself, aren’t familiar with the original story of the Scarlet Pimpernel, all you need to know is that it’s about an English nobleman who braves daring rescues in France to save nobles from the guillotine during the Reign of Terror in Revolutionary France. What Genevieve Cogman has done is take that concept and add vampires, and frankly why wouldn’t you? Unlike the original text – from what I can gather – this tale is not told from the point of view of the upper class, but rather by a kitchen maid named Eleanor, who serves in a vampire’s household in England.

Eleanor was the perfect main character; it took me a few pages to find her voice amid all the other things being introduced, but once she got going she was a quick-witted, caring, and ambitious young woman that I was rooting for throughout. She becomes involved with the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel because of her uncanny resemblance to Queen Marie Antoinette herself, though all she’s initially told is that she looks a bit like a French noblewoman they are trying to rescue. And, somehow, I had not realised that the book’s blurb outright states that this is the queen, and so I was quite proud of myself for having figured it out before Eleanor does. Either way, the early chapters spent at the League’s headquarters as Eleanor is taught French, pose, and spy craft were thrilling. Especially as we’re slowly introduced to the League and all their different talents.

Scarlet is written in an easy style that nonetheless feels classic, almost as if it had been written at the time of the text that inspired it. It’s clear that Cogman put a lot of care and research into the setting, because every detail worked together to make things feel vivid and real; the specifics of the clothing each character wore especially captivated me, because of how well it worked to convey what class, nationality, and alliance the character was professing. Eleanor and The Pimpernel himself especially play with disguises throughout. The easy style I’ve mentioned also contributed to it feeling like a romantic (in the traditional sense) adventure story, aided by the near escapes, moonlit chases, and extravagant rescue plans. It was all really fun! There was also a bit of actual romance, though I do wish this had been built up a bit better. That’s probably my only complaint…

The other thing I’ll say is that about halfway through the narrative took a turn I was not expecting, adding a whole other layer to the plot and world building, and that just added to my enjoyment. I won’t say more about it because the joy is in the discovery, but if you’ve read this I’d love to know what your reactions were! It heightened the stakes, and has made me very keen to read the next instalment, whenever it eventually comes out… reading Scarlet also sent me on a mini-Cogman binge, and I devoured three of her Invisible Library series because I enjoyed her writing so much. They had been sitting on my shelf for a while now, but in a way I’m glad that this new series was my first introduction to the author, because it does something that I haven’t encountered in fantasy before, which is very exciting.

Book Info

Published: 11th May 2023 by PanMacmillan
Genre: historical fantasy
Pages: 320
Series: The Scarlet Revolution, book one
Narration style: third person past tense, single point of view
Format read: eARC
Content Warnings: death, execution, blood letting

Similar Reads

5 thoughts on “Review: Scarlet by Genevieve Cogman”

    1. I did wonder about reading the original text, but I did read a quick summary of it to get a better idea and that seemed to work! But even if I’d known nothing about The Scarlet Pimpernel going in it was still really enjoyable!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s