Betrothed to a vengeful spymaster, who relishes nothing but her family’s blood, and hunted by baying revolutionaries – from the shadow of the guillotine Eugénie must run.
The Pale Assassin is the first of two novels written by author Patricia Elliott capturing the brutal French Revolution. The Pimpernelles Collection details Eugénie de Boncoeur’s transformation from spoilt, indifferent aristocrat to quit-thinking heroine.
Elliott writes fantasy/ historical fiction novels for older children and young adults, many of them including a dark Gothic atmosphere mixed with suspense and romance.
Spending most of her childhood overseas, in Europe and the Far East, Elliott initially worked in publishing before later taking an M.A. in Writing for Children.
Children? Adult readers I can see the shutters going down in your head. Yes, this is a novel I first read when I was 14 but it’s one I’ve since revisited and still enjoy.
I’ve also had adult friends of mine who too have read it and thoroughly enjoyed it so please don’t rule this out as just a children’s book.
Due to Elliott’s spectre of audience, yes some of the language and metaphors are simpler than other historical fiction you might have read but complex words themselves don’t make a story. The way they are formed and put together does and so their absence is not detriment to the novel.
Her research for The Pale Assassin is evidently thorough – with graphic and immaculate detail of the revolution. The novel presents this information in a way that is both relatable and engaging.
For that reason, if nothing else, this makes for a good read for those not familiar with the French Revolution and wishing to get a solid background on the topic.
But this shouldn’t just be an academic exercise, so does the story stand up to facts?
Whilst facts and figures makes for good build-up, this seems to take up a large proportion of the book. Certainly a lot of part one anyway.
I will admit there are a few points when it seems a little slow during the first section but please stick with it because the reward is worth it.
Part two is excellent. A belated start to the action, this is what most of the book has been building to and I really enjoy every time I read it.
Eugénie is at times a frustrating lead and does occasionally chafe. But that’s the whole point. She has to grow as a character and she can’t do that until she’s released from the aristocratic bubble she’s cocooned in and faces reality.
So initially you’re not supposed to agree with her politics or ambitions (both of which generally revolve more around Marie Antoinette’s gowns than her foreign policy).
As the book evolves, however, she does too and during the second section she’s certainly a heroine worth routing for.
To those willing to tackle The Pale Assassin, I would say hang in there because it will be worth it in the end.
Published by Hodder Children’s Books, The Pale Assassin retails at £6.99.