Sunday, 1 May 2011

The Pimpernelles, Book 1: The Pale Assassin

The Pimpernelles Book 1: The Pale Assassin

By Patricia Elliott


The Pale Assassin tells the story of Eugénie de Boncoeur, a young aristocrat living in Paris in 1789 as the French Revolution begins.  Her mother and father are dead, and she and her brother are under the care their guardian.  With the help of Hortense, her governess, Eugenie lives the life of an aristocrat.

As the French revolution takes hold, aristocrats are being put the guillotine, and many are leaving the city.  When Eugénie's family home in Chauvais is destroyed and her guardian flees Paris, she is forced to leave her governess and live in a convent. Eugénie is safe there, or so she thinks. But she is being watched by the Pale Assassin, nicknamed Le Fantôme, meaning 'the ghost.'

Le Fantôme is a sinister, but very rich man who is involved in the revolution.  He has a team of people helping him keep the revolution going and also killing all of his enemies, one of his biggest enemies being the De Boncoeur family, because of their riches and his desire for revenge. He has no particular reason for revenge but he disliked Eugénie's father very much.  Unknown to Eugénie, her guardian betrothed her to Le Fantôme and she must marry him when she turns 16.

In the story, Eugénie tries to survive in an increasingly hostile city but also protect her brother Armand who is a aristocratic royalist. Armand is planning to help the Queen, King, Dauphin and Dauphine escape the Guillotine. Eugénie is urged by her brother to leave Paris and to go and stay with one of their English relatives in the English countryside. Eugénie will not go without her brother but Armand refuses to leave his beloved country.

Can Eugénie escape to England? Can she escape from Le Fantôme and his group of murderers?  Most importantly, can she survive?


I almost didn't write this review because I almost couldn't get through this book. I started it twice but the second time I got through the entire book. It was hard to read for 2 reasons:

#1 I didn't find the story very interesting and there were no cliff hangers.
#2 I found that there were a lot of typos.

This book was a hard book to read, but I thought that it was important for me to write a review for it. Here goes:

I have to admit that The Pale Assassin is not the best book I have ever read. As I said as above I didn't find the story very interesting or engaging.  Also Eugénie, I think, is not a character that you would want for a role model.  She always gets into trouble (that's normal for a teenager) but the worst thing is that she never gets herself out of trouble, it's always somebody else. So it is as if she doesn't try to help herself and sometimes doesn't think. She is a character who is smart but does not use her intelligence  at the right times. She doesn't pay attention to the important things in life,  just fashion and parties.

Also I found that the story starts fast but bit by bit it starts to slow down. Those are my only complaints.

On the positive side, I found the timeline (historical) really interesting, because I like reading about the French revolution. It is an interesting revolution because the people are fighting against the Royalists and that is not a common type of revolution.  The book had all the right historical facts and the dates in the right order.

Perhaps the author's other books are better and I hope to read another some day so that I can give them an other try . (In fact this is the first of three books in the Pimpernelles series).  I think that my choice fell on the wrong book this time.

Please note that this book is recommended for ages 12 and up.

424 pages


  1. Wow. Good review. My daughter read this book and didn't like it much, so I promised to read it and have to say I agree with your review.

    I found the writing slightly crazy. Especially in the beginning where 'but' was used to start almost every sentence. Eugenie also really frustrated me as she seemed so vacant or unthinking. Also I found the plot, or story line, very unbelievable and quite slow. Midway through the book I began skimming the pages.

    That said, I think the author did a good job of portraying life in Paris during the French Revolution. You have to remember that the French Revolution didn't happen in just one day, or in one year. Rather, it includes a number of events (fall from power and death of Louis XVI, public gatherings, riots, storming of the Bastille etc).

    If one reads the book looking for a 'story of a girl' they might be disappointed. But if they read it to learn about the life of an aristocratic girl living in Paris during they Revolution they might like it more.

    Although my daughter didn't like the book I'm going to buy her the sequel and we will both read it with a different expectation.

  2. I have just read this bok and I belive it to be interesting enough to finish, but there were many points when I felt like throwing it out.

  3. I found this book wonderful. Of course an aristocratic girl like Eugiene would be like that especially in those times, women weren't like what they are today, you have to keep that in mind. Also that she spent her life being stuffed cooton balls in amazingly rich comfort. Soooo..... I think I have a point the book was wonderful and I have read the second and look forward to the third.

    1. I completely agree with you, this is an amazing book for twelve year olds. I have read my share of Charles Dickens all the way through to Jane Austen, and I actually hold the pimpernelles series as one of my favourite series, yes maybe the grammar could be improved. However, the story is rich in context for a tween book. I have had trouble locating the third book The Watching Eye, I have tried new and secondhand bookshops, libraries, contacts however nothing. I only came across a few Internet shopping sites which I didn't trust.