Regarded by many critics as the finest adventure story ever written — and certainly one of the most popular — The Prisoner of Zenda (1894) tells the story of Rudolf Rassendyl, a dashing English gentleman who bears an uncanny resemblance to the ruler of the fictional kingdom of Ruritania. Rassendyl masquerades as the king in order to save the country from a treacherous plot and secures the release of the wronged prisoner. In the process he wins the heart of the beautiful princess Flavia, but ultimately surrenders the crown and the hand of his beloved princess to the rightful ruler.
Rupert of Hentzau, which ends in tragedy rather than triumph, is the darker, more problematic sequel to The Prisoner of Zenda. Full of swash-buckling feats of heroism as well as witty irony, these adventure tales are also wonderfully executed satires on late nineteenth-century European politics.