Historical Fantasy Book Review | Scarlet by Genevieve Cogman

Revolution is a bloodthirsty business . . . especially when vampires are involved.

It is 1793 and the French Revolution is in full swing. Vampires—usually rich and aristocratic—have slaked the guillotine’s thirst in large numbers. The mysterious Scarlet Pimpernel, a disguised British noble, and his League are heroically rescuing dozens of aristocrats from execution, both human and vampire. And soon they will have an ace up their sleeve: Eleanor Dalton.

Eleanor is working as a housemaid on the estate of a vampire Baroness. Her highest aspiration is to one day become a modiste. But when the Baroness hosts a mysterious noble and his wife, they tell Eleanor she is the spitting image of a French aristocrat, and they convince her to journey to France to aid them in a daring scheme. Soon, Eleanor finds herself in Paris, swept up in magic and intrigue—and chaos—beyond her wildest dreams. But there’s more to fear than ardent Revolutionaries. For Eleanor stumbles across a centuries-old war between vampires and their fiercest enemy. And they’re out for blood. . . . 

Scarlet is the first book in a wildly engaging new series from Genevieve Cogman, which reinvents the beloved tale of the Scarlet Pimpernel.

Scarlet comes out on Tuesday, May 9, 2023!

Thank you to Berkley Books for the gifted digital copy of this book to read and review.

What’s it about (in a nutshell):

Scarlet by Genevieve Cogman is a suspense-filled historical fantasy that picks up (I think) where the original The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Orczy leaves off, plus gives the story a paranormal twist. Vampires live in this twisted world and live happily among humans; as a matter of fact, they are fully integrated into society.  

My Reading Experience:

I just loved so many things about this story. I’m almost at a loss as to where to begin. There is so much to unpack.

First, the plot versus the true history of the Revolution is done extraordinarily well. Cogman takes an honest and thoughtful look at the Revolution and its benefits and fallacies. I appreciated that the main character, Eleanor, questioned ideas as she was introduced to them and how that led to a thoroughly thought-out historical plot.

There’s magic in this story which was very unexpected and very mysterious. I’m completely intrigued by this aspect of the book’s world and hope it is explored in other books. A mage is introduced briefly, and she can perform some nature-based magic. I do love a magical system in a fantasy!

The vampires in this world hold to the tradition of needing human blood. Still, everything else about them is very different than in other vampire stories. They have fully integrated into a world of humans living side-by-side in companionability. To get the human blood that they need, servants of the vampire are required to allow a bloodletting of sorts in the kitchen into a cup once a day. It’s very surgical and causes no risk to the human. And mostly vampires live their lives as close to their human counterparts as possible. There are also some cruel vampires, which is part of the later suspense and thrills.


Eleanor has been a servant in the household of the Baroness of Basing, a vampire, since she was very young. Unbeknownst to her, she resembles Marie Antoinette- The Queen of France, who was, at that time, awaiting trial. When the Baroness sends her to the home of Sir Percy and Lady Marguerite, she starts out on an adventure

that turns her from a quiet subservient girl to a strong independent woman who is ready, willing, and able to take on the injustices of the world. I loved watching her grow and develop as the story went on. It was not always an easy growth, but that made the character more authentic and lovable.

Narration & Pacing:

The narration is done in the 3rd person, focusing closely on Eleanor (Nellie), giving it a slightly more personal style while still allowing the reader to understand more of what is going on than Nellie did at any point in time.

Initially, the pacing was slow, while the world-building was particularly strong. Still, it picked up as the suspense grew with Nellie’s dangerous mission, which grew more hazardous as things started to go wrong. I much enjoyed the faster pace.

World-Building / Setting:

The setting is mostly Paris, France, during the French Revolution. But in this world, vampires and humans live among each other without malice and fear. The world-building is phenomenal. It immediately pulls you into the story and immerses you in a time long gone. The descriptions hit all the senses, allowing me to be transported back in time and imagine that world with vampires and even some magic.

Read if you like:

  • Historical fantasy
  • Suspense filled stories
  • Vampires!

Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Writing Quality10
Character Development8
‘Couldn’t Put It Down’-ness10
Use of Setting10
All scores, except the overall rating, are on a scale of 1-10. The overall rating is converted to the standard 5-point system.

17 Replies to “Historical Fantasy Book Review | Scarlet by Genevieve Cogman”

      1. Between this and your Twitter comment? I’m hooked. Just waiting for the audio arc to drop with Penguin/Ace. lol

        Also I noticed you are reading No one Needs to Know. It is FANTASTIC

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Ooh, this does sound fascinating! Years ago, I read a lot of vampire stories and my most favorite were those where they moved with ease among their human counterparts. I seriously misjudged the book by its cover, too. Wonderful review, Tessa💜

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The French Revolution has always intrigued and horrified me and I loved the twists provided by having vampires in the story. It felt more empowering than normal fictional accounts of that time.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This sounds like a wonderful book for those who enjoy stories with vampires. It sounds like an interesting story using the French Revolution as the background. Great review, Tessa.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I found adding vampires to an account of the French Revolution actually created more of a feeling of empowerment, which was completely unexpected. That was such a sad time, I think.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It really was. The vampires gave the story an empowering angle that the real history didn’t have and I thought that was compelling and interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

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