Swordfights, lust, betrayal, murder: just another day for a henchman.
Jasper Detchard is a disgraced British officer, now selling his blade to the highest bidder. Currently that's Michael Elphberg, half-brother to the King of Ruritania. Michael wants the throne for himself, and Jasper is one of the scoundrels he hires to help him take it. But when Michael makes his move, things don’t go entirely to plan—and the penalty for treason is death.
Rupert of Hentzau is Michael's newest addition to his sinister band of henchmen. Charming, lethal, and intolerably handsome, Rupert is out for his own ends—which seem to include getting Jasper into bed. But Jasper needs to work out what Rupert’s really up to amid a maelstrom of plots, swordfights, scheming, impersonation, desire, betrayal, and murder.
Nobody can be trusted. Everyone has a secret. And love is the worst mistake you can make.
A retelling of the swashbuckling classic The Prisoner of Zenda from a very different point of view.
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Six Stars!!! A perfect villain's romp...
Many years ago, I read and re-read Anthony Hope's "The Prisoner of Zenda" as a child. To me, it was this wonderful novel, with a swashbuckling British hero, a weak king, and a dastardly villain, unimaginately nicknamed the Black Prince, both for his secrets and the color of his hair. The only thing that disappointed was the manner of the Prisoner of Zenda's ending, which to my eight-year-old mind was ... seriously lame.
A few years later, I discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs' "The Mad King," which is a retelling of the same story with a more jovial, less stuffy American hero and an ending that was ... well, if not better, a bit less lame. Still, it was a good read, and, in my opinion, better than the original. My copy's pages are well worn from use.
And now, several decades later, I've found KJ Charles's "The Henchmen of Zenda." This book is the perfect storm for me, with the point of view of a complicated villain (one of the henchmen of the title) who is unapologetic about his morals - murder, theft, and romantic infidelity are regular activities - but holds certain things sacroscant - you always come to a friend's rescue, without question or hesitation. The book turns on its end the original, and truly, is so much better. The ending is satsfying and PERFECT.
Word of warning, though, "The Henchmen of Zenda" contains an M/M romantic pairing and explicit sexual content that would not in any way have been appropriate for my younger self to read at eight or 12 years of age.
Bless you, Kj Charles, you brought me back to my first favorite book, and did it better. I am now re-reading the other two books again - purely because of this book.