This is one of the many sequels to Baroness Orczy’s classic historical adventure novel, The Scarlet Pimpernel. The story is again set during the French Revolution and at the beginning of the novel, in January 1793, King Louis XVI of France – now known simply as Louis Capet – has been found guilty of ‘conspiring against liberty’.
With their former king sentenced to death it’s a dangerous time for the French aristocracy, and Sir Percy Blakeney and his men are in France to help the La Rodière family avoid the guillotine. Knowing that his old enemy Chauvelin will be determined to track him down, a disguise is necessary – so Sir Percy becomes the fiddle-playing leader of a disreputable band of musicians entertaining crowds of revolutionaries in a tavern near the Château de la Rodière. This means Percy and the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel are ideally placed to be able to protect the family when the mob decides to attack the Château…but could someone within the League be about to betray their plans?
After reading (and loving) The Scarlet Pimpernel last year, I wanted to try another book in the series. I wasn’t sure which one to choose as I’ve seen a few different recommended reading orders, but I decided on this one as it is set immediately after the events of The Scarlet Pimpernel. I enjoyed it but it wasn’t as good as the original book. With all the action taking place in France, this means we don’t see anything of Sir Percy’s wife, Marguerite, which I thought was a bit disappointing as their relationship had formed such a big part of the story in The Scarlet Pimpernel. Marguerite was not a particularly strong character but I connected with her more than I did with either of the two female characters in this book, Blanche Levet or Cécile de la Rodière.
We do spend a lot of time with the other men of the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel. I remembered some of them from the previous book – Lord Anthony Dewhurst, Sir Andrew Ffoulkes and Lord Hastings – but there was also one who was new to me, St John Devinne. From the start it seems that Devinne is distrusted by everyone except Sir Percy and as Percy has previously proved to be so good at judging people and situations, the reader is made to wonder who is right and who is wrong. A lot of the novel’s tension and suspense comes from waiting to see whether he is going to betray Percy and the rest of the League.
Sir Percy Leads the Band was entertaining enough but I didn’t think it was anything very special and there’s really not a lot more I can say about it! Although I didn’t like it as much as The Scarlet Pimpernel it won’t deter me from trying some of the other books in the series at some point. Maybe those of you who are Scarlet Pimpernel fans can tell me whether it’s best to continue reading the series chronologically or if there’s another order you would recommend.