The Pale Assassin is the first of two books by Patricia Elliott that tell the story of an aristocratic family during the French Revolution. I had the misfortune to read the second book, The Traitor's Smile, first, so I know how the story ends. But The Pale Assassin is just as good as its sequel and just as engaging and well written.
In The Pale Assassin, Elliott concentrates on developing her characters and setting the stage for what will happen in the second novel. The reader develops a good sense of what Paris and France was like before the Revolution. Like its sequel, The Pale Assassin works its way to a thrilling conclusion.
In this novel we are introduced to our heroine, Eugenie Boncoeur, a 14 year old aristocrat and her older brother, Armand, a royalist who is intent on helping King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette escape from Paris. Armand is part of a secret group who are plotting to save the King. Helping him is his best friend, Julien de Fortin, whom Eugenie doesn't much like. We also meet their adversaries, the "Pale Assassin", Raoul Goullet, an evil man who is intent upon destroying the Boncoeur family, and who is determined to kidnap Eugenie who has been promised to him in marriage. He is aided in his attack on the Boncoeurs by Guy Deschamps, a two-faced scoundrel, whom the naive Eugenie is infatuated with. Deschamps goes by the pseudonym of "Le Scapel".
As the situation in Paris grows increasingly violent, the Boncoeurs realize, almost too late, that they must leave for England, where they have a wealthy uncle. Armand decides to delay their departure until the day King Louis is to be guillotined, also the day when the royalists plan to attack and save the king. Julien is part of this attack, but when things do not go as planned, Armand and Julien must change their plans. Will they be able to get Eugenie out of Paris, out of France and more importantly away from La Fantome?!!
The Pale Assassin is a well crafted novel which teens who love historical fiction will thoroughly enjoy. In addition to the suspenseful plot line, there is a touch of romantic tension that is developed further in the second book. The Pale Assassin evokes memories of Baroness Orczy's Scarlet Pimpernel series written at the turn of the last century (1905). It has a dashing hero, a damsel who is being blackmailed by a scoundrel all set against the backdrop of the French Revolution. The Pale Assassin is believable, with realistic full characters, an exciting plot line and is well written. Patricia Elliott has written two excellent historical novels for young adult readers.
The Pale Assassin by Patricia Elliott
New York: Holiday House 2009