Book Reviews

Review: Scarlet by Genevieve Cogman

I am a huge fan of Cogman’s Invisible Library series so I knew I had to check out the beginning of this new one! It’s revolution meets politics, spies, and vampires! What a packed premise! But I’m left with some mixed feelings….Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.


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 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. . . . 


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

It’s difficult to articulate my thoughts on Scarlet. Let’s start with setting. I enjoyed the historical fiction setting plus vampires. While I think the vampires ended up becoming more of a presence towards the middle, I also felt like I wanted a more solid world building explanation for them earlier? It’s a main draw – the whole vampire thing – and because of that I think it can sometimes create expectations. Don’t get me wrong. There are vampires and I greatly enjoyed that we see a few different ‘types’ of vampires.

But even after finishing I’m lacking an ability to even explain all the vampire politics and world history to you. Perhaps this is due to the nature that is is a series and so many of my problems, self-admittedly fall into what could be considered ‘first book syndrome’, might stem from the necessity to provide this foundation. Take for example, the main character Eleanor. In many ways, you can see throughout Scarlet that this book is intended for Eleanor to reconsider her own opinions and position.

But at the beginning, Eleanor makes so many excuses for the nobility even when they mistreat her. They consistently put her in bad situations and give her ‘choices’ that were never really so. Not to mention, the whole premise is to save aristocrats. Slowly she begins to wonder if she should keep working with them and helping them, but for a historical setting where one might argue the nobility were a big part of the problem and Eleanor isn’t ‘one of them’ it is puzzling.


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I think a lot of that could be explained by her growing sense of awareness and her not being in the thick of it in Paris, plus the nature of history not to be firmly good or bad, but as a reader I found this extremely confusing? If this was the only element I had difficulties with that would be one thing. But the pacing and world didn’t feel as clearly established or captivating as I have come to associate with Cogman.

As a whole, this could all be chalked up to a whole lotta ‘first book syndrome’ in terms of seeing it more as an opening act and not a story designed to stand entirely on its own. And I don’t mean it doesn’t make sense on its own, it does, but it’s clear that there’s so much more to come which can just be a bit frustrating at the beginning. If you love the idea of historical fantasy, vampires being a loose image of capitalism, and the beginning of a series, then you should read Scarlet and let me know what you think.

Find Scarlet on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon,, & Blackwells.


Do you have a favorite book set during the French Revolution?

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