Sir Percy Leads the Band by Baroness Emmuska Orczy

Sir Percy Leads the Band This is one of the many sequels to Baroness Orczy’s classic historical adventure novel, The Scarlet Pimpernel. The story is again set during the French Revolution and at the beginning of the novel, in January 1793, King Louis XVI of France – now known simply as Louis Capet – has been found guilty of ‘conspiring against liberty’.

With their former king sentenced to death it’s a dangerous time for the French aristocracy, and Sir Percy Blakeney and his men are in France to help the La Rodière family avoid the guillotine. Knowing that his old enemy Chauvelin will be determined to track him down, a disguise is necessary – so Sir Percy becomes the fiddle-playing leader of a disreputable band of musicians entertaining crowds of revolutionaries in a tavern near the Château de la Rodière. This means Percy and the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel are ideally placed to be able to protect the family when the mob decides to attack the Château…but could someone within the League be about to betray their plans?

After reading (and loving) The Scarlet Pimpernel last year, I wanted to try another book in the series. I wasn’t sure which one to choose as I’ve seen a few different recommended reading orders, but I decided on this one as it is set immediately after the events of The Scarlet Pimpernel. I enjoyed it but it wasn’t as good as the original book. With all the action taking place in France, this means we don’t see anything of Sir Percy’s wife, Marguerite, which I thought was a bit disappointing as their relationship had formed such a big part of the story in The Scarlet Pimpernel. Marguerite was not a particularly strong character but I connected with her more than I did with either of the two female characters in this book, Blanche Levet or Cécile de la Rodière.

We do spend a lot of time with the other men of the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel. I remembered some of them from the previous book – Lord Anthony Dewhurst, Sir Andrew Ffoulkes and Lord Hastings – but there was also one who was new to me, St John Devinne. From the start it seems that Devinne is distrusted by everyone except Sir Percy and as Percy has previously proved to be so good at judging people and situations, the reader is made to wonder who is right and who is wrong. A lot of the novel’s tension and suspense comes from waiting to see whether he is going to betray Percy and the rest of the League.

Sir Percy Leads the Band was entertaining enough but I didn’t think it was anything very special and there’s really not a lot more I can say about it! Although I didn’t like it as much as The Scarlet Pimpernel it won’t deter me from trying some of the other books in the series at some point. Maybe those of you who are Scarlet Pimpernel fans can tell me whether it’s best to continue reading the series chronologically or if there’s another order you would recommend.

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11 thoughts on “Sir Percy Leads the Band by Baroness Emmuska Orczy

  1. Leander says:

    Ah, I’m interested to see that you’re moving on to the sequels, Helen. I haven’t tried any of them – not a conscious decision, but based on your thoughts above I wonder whether The Scarlet Pimpernel is one of those books that doesn’t really *need* sequels, in the sense that maybe they don’t really add to the pleasure given by the first book (and, in a worst-case scenario, risk undermining it slightly). It’ll be good to hear what you think of the others. If any of them grabs you in the same way as the original, I might be tempted to pick it up. Until then… 🙂

    • Helen says:

      No, I don’t think The Scarlet Pimpernel really does need a sequel – it works perfectly well as a standalone novel – but knowing that there were sequels in existence, I couldn’t resist trying one! I will be investigating the others eventually and will be sure to let you know if I find one that I enjoy as much as the original.

  2. JAHirsch says:

    I also haven’t tried any of the sequels, in fact, I had no idea there were even sequels! I think I enjoyed The Scarlet Pimpernel enough that I’m not sure I need any more of the story. But as with the previous comment, if you find any that are outstanding, I would certainly be willing to give it a go.

    • Helen says:

      I’ll be interested to see if any of the others in the series are as good as The Scarlet Pimpernel. This one was fun to read but definitely not as memorable as the original.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    I’ve been reading my way through some of the sequels. None are as good as the first one, but I’ve really enjoyed them, even the ones in which Sir Percy barely makes an appearance. The Elusive Pimpernel is my favorite so far, maybe because Sir Percy and Marguerite have a fairly large role in it.

    • Helen says:

      I’m sure there are a lot of people who don’t know about the sequels. They certainly haven’t matched the popularity and success of the original book, but I’m hoping that they’ll all still be worth reading!

  4. Charlie says:

    I didn’t know there were sequels either, maybe they aren’t so popular because they don’t match the first? Still it’s a pity and it happens so often with other books too.

    • Helen says:

      Yes, there might be a good reason why The Scarlet Pimpernel is so much better known than any of Baroness Orczy’s other books. Based on this particular sequel, though, I think her others will still be enjoyable, if not quite as good.

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