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Picking up directly afterThe Pale Assassin(2009), this French Revolution thriller includes intrigue, romance and plenty of blood but takes a while to pick up steam.
Displaced aristocrat Eugénie and friend Julien have fled Paris for Eugénie's rebel-minded cousin Hetta's house on the English coast. Eugénie can't return to France because of a fraudulent but binding marriage engagement to Le Fantôme, a Phantom of the Opera/Javert figure with high government ranking and a vast spy network. Eugénie's brother Armand languishes in Paris prisons awaiting the corrupt trial that will send him to the guillotine for being a royalist andaristo. Le Fantôme's debonair, sociopathic thug, Guy, tracks Eugénie, Hetta and Julien with disconcerting expertise. However, despite the constant threat of rape, murder and kidnapping, momentum lags for the first 200 pages. Readers know every danger and secret all along; narrative perspective shifts from character to character too quickly to catch hold. When Eugénie and Hetta end up accidentally back in Paris, the plot quickens. The city seethes with bitter fury and revenge-based executions. Romanticconnections get befuddled through naivete, and the main characters' tricky final escapades, while not quite believable, are as exciting and gruesomely successful as befits the Revolutionary setting.
Political passion and upheaval are mainly backdrop; if readers loyal to the four main players can stay the course, they'll like the ending. (cast of historical and fictional characters, timeline, afterward)(Historical thriller. 14 & up)