This is a retelling of The Prisoner of Zenda that tells the story from the perspective of one of the villains, with some creative liberties and twists. I don’t think you need to read the original to enjoy this, but it might make the story easier to understand since you’ll have the full picture, and I always find it makes retellings more interesting to know the original, especially when they’re from a different character’s POV.
So I listened to the original before listening to this one, and maybe this is literary blasphemy, but I liked this retelling more!
I wondered at first why the author chose Detchard as the protagonist when Rupert was so much more interesting, but she managed to make Detchard interesting too, and he was a good choice of narrator. He had a mature, controlled demeanor that was the perfect contrast to Rupert’s youth and brashness, and he held coldness toward most but warmth for those he considered friends. And not getting Rupert’s POV only made him all the more dashing and enigmatic. It’s also fun getting to root for the bad guys, especially when the author gives them some good qualities and reasons to be on their side without overdoing it and making them too good. In this case, Detchard wasn’t exactly a good person, but he was in this particular situation for a good reason I could support, and I just found myself liking the characters anyway.
The romance between Detchard and Rupert, which turned out to be a kind of unofficial but loyal open relationship, was sexy and fun and suited them and their adventurous lifestyles.
The plot was in line with the original (someone who looks like the king impersonates him to help when the king is poisoned before coronation and winds up in the middle of dangerous politics as the king’s brother, Michael, tries to take the throne), but more fleshed out on Michael’s side of things and with backstory, motivations, and a satisfactory ending for Detchard and Rupert. The author also put some of her own unique twists on things.
Side note: I love how perfect the book cover is for the story and characters, and I also just love the cover in general! Look at that playful smirk on Rupert’s face. (According to the author’s site, the art is by Simoné, design is by LC Chase.)
The audiobook narration by Antony Ferguson was great. It sounded natural, voices suited the characters, and although all the voices weren’t super different, I didn’t have a problem telling characters apart.
Overall, the characters were interesting, the romance was fitting, the story and its slight twists on the original were fun, and I really enjoyed this!
Anyone who likes m/m romance, retellings, The Prisoner of Zenda, fun and action-filled stories, contrasting characters, and villains as main characters.