Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement.

scarletIn 18th century Europe, vampires have woven themselves into the ruling classes, the aristocrats and sanguinocrats side by side. Eleanor works in the household of one such vampire, desperate to rise through the ranks and become a lady’s maid. When visiting gentry notice Eleanor bears a striking resemblance to the Queen of France, she is whisked away into a world of intrigue and espionage, into the company of the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel.

Now, word of the tricolour daggered fear into the hearts of even the staunchest of aristocrats. And vampires were the purest aristocrats of all…

I’m a big fan of The Invisible Library books and was excited to hear Genevieve Cogman was embarking on a new series, this time historical fantasy with vampires. If you’re not up on your French history, don’t worry, the book comes with a brief introduction, which might make you think your country is on the precipice of revolution too…

At the start of the book, the French Revolution is in full swing, with vampires being hunted down and sent to the guillotine along with their noble co-conspirators. Whilst Eleanor has a good impression of vampires at the start, they are not the romantic kind, much more monstrous when crossed. And it turns out beheading their kind, makes them very cross.

Eleanor finds herself suddenly alone amongst nobility, the members of the League often forgetting she is low born but she sees the gulf between them, knows she can never really be one of them. But she does want to help save a woman and child she believes is innocent and they offer her the chance for a job as a seamstress once she’s done. She can hardly say no, especially if that would displease her employer. In her position, she doesn’t really get to make choices.

She does not believe that vampires have magical abilities, that the rumours are just that. They have spent so long insinuating themselves into society that people have forgotten they are not human. As she travels across France and into the heart of nobility, she is about to have the wool lifted from her eyes.

Vampires aside, it tried to show both sides of the French Revolution. Eleanor is working class but has sympathy for the nobility, having felt she’s been treated well by her employer, but she also sees the huge gap between people like her and the people in the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel. Putting a stop to inequality should not mean executing people simply for the crime of their birth, nor imprisoning children. Because let’s face it, the real Dauphin was just a child who couldn’t have done anything to deserve his fate, you can see why stories of daring rescues might garner support from overseas.

Some of the revolutionaries are hypocrites too, but Eleanor soon discovers the vampires of France are not the same as the vampire she works for. Making the nobility out to be monsters makes it a lot easier to stomach chopping off their heads.

She still had nightmares about being chased through the chateau by night, by a vampire who considered her nothing more than livestock. Why shouldn’t a murderer like him be equal under the law with someone like her?

My knowledge of the Scarlet Pimpernel mostly comes from watching Carry On Don’t Lose Your Head as a child, which was hardly historically accurate or reflective of the books, so I don’t know how much of Scarlet is a retelling or just inspired by. It certainly paints a vivid picture of revolutionary France and contains much of the escapades you’d expect from Genevieve’s books.

Scarlet is published by Tor and is available now in hardback, ebook and audiobook formats. Thanks got to the publisher for providing a copy for review and don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog tour.

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