Written in 1894, The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope is a suspenseful novel filled with political intrigue, adventure, and romance. It tells the story of Rudolf Rassendyll, an average Englishman, on a holiday to the fictitious country of Ruritania. But all of this is dramatically changed when he meets the king of Ruritania, who, much to his astonishment, looks almost exactly like him. The only major difference between the two is that Rudolf has a moustache and the king has none. Delighted, the king invites Rudolf to have dinner with him and a couple of his friends the night before his coronation at his hunting lodge. They all stay up late into the night, and eventually Rudolf falls asleep in his chair at the table.
The next morning, Rudolf is suddenly awakened by Colonel Sapt, only to discover the king lying on the floor unconscious. The king, who stayed up later than everyone else, apparently drank from a bottle of wine that his half-brother, Michael, had drugged. Michael wants to be the king of Ruritania, and he knows that if the king misses his coronation day, it is very likely that he will be crowned instead and the king killed. Rudolf, realizing what he must do to save the king, shaves his moustache and with the help of Colonel Sapt and Fritz learns what to do and say at the coronation.
The coronation runs smoothly, and little does anyone suspect that Rudolf Rassendyll, an ordinary Englishman, has just been proclaimed king of Ruritania. After the coronation, and meeting the lovely Princess Flavia, Rudolf and Sapt ride back to the lodge in order to bring the real king to the castle. However, the king is missing; kidnapped by one of Michael’s assistants.
Suddenly, Rudolf finds himself having to portray the king, trying to work out a plot to rescue the king, and falling in love with Princess Flavia all at once. Time is running out for the king, and Rudolf must find and save him before it is too late.
Although this book was written over a hundred years ago, its fundamental issues and concepts are still relatable to this very day. It asks questions like: what is considered a worthy enough cause to risk your life for? Is your duty to your state and family worth fulfilling if it means you can’t be with the one you love? Should you try to make somebody love you that doesn’t love you entirely back? Can being power-hungry ever end well?
From the moment you start this book until you finish, you will be held prisoner by The Prisoner of Zenda.