The Rider is one of the shortest of Edgar Rice Burroughs works but it’s also one of the most entertaining. Written in 1915 and published as a serial for All-Story Weekly as H.R.H the Rider this story is a madcap adventure tale of mistaken and assumed identities with the fate of two countries hanging in the balance.
The book begins with the Princess Mary of Margoth finding out she has been betrothed to Crown Prince Boris of Karlova, both these countries have been age old rivals with war between them always a danger. This marriage will create an alliance that will bring peace to the region, unfortunately neither Princess Mary nor Prince Boris are interested in getting married. Prince Boris has no interest in giving up his bachelor ways to marry a mealy mouth Morgothian girl and Princess Mary would rather die than to marry a Karlovian ogre. Needless to say neither of the two has actually ever met. The lengths these two go to avoid meeting of course will lead to mystery, adventure and love.
The other players in the story are Hemmington Main an American journalist in love with Gwendolyn Bass an heiress to the Bass fortune, she shares his love and deeply wants to marry him, but unfortunately her mother wants her to marry into European nobility and whisks her away to Europe. Gwendolyn’s father is sympathetic to their plight and so he finances young Hemmington’s pursuit of his one true love.
And last but not least there is The Rider, an infamous highwayman of low scruples who plies his trade on the roads between Margoth and Karlova. His life of crime takes a decidedly strange detour when he attempts to waylay Prince Boris. The Prince easily takes down The Rider but instead of hauling him off to the gallows he takes him to the inn where the Prince was to meet some friends. After hearing the exploits of this notorious brigand the Prince comes up with a fiendishly clever idea. The Rider and the Prince will switch identities, The Rider will go to Demia, the capital of Margoth to meet his betrothed and upon meeting the Princess his uncouth manners and unpleasant visage should end any thoughts the Margothians have for this marriage. Of course Princess Mary has her own plans on how to avoid which involve acting like a drooling imbecile and a limping hag.
And this is where things get confusing. Boris meets up with Hemmington Main and offers his aid in the pursuit of Gwendolyn, disguised as The Rider he will kidnap Gwendolyn and her mother and bring her to an inn where a priest will marry Gwendolyn to Hemmigton. Brilliant plan, that is until he accidently kidnaps Princess Mary and her maid who were incognito and sneaking out of the city, thinking that they were Gwen and her mother. The Rider still dressed up as Prince Boris runs into the real Gwendolyn on the road, he immediately recognizes the heiress and dollar signs fill his eyes. So with help of nobility hungry mother he plans to marry her as quickly as possible.
To say high jinks ensue would be an understatement.
This book is fantastic, it is short but just jammed pack with daring do and true love. It’s the kind of story that just can’t put down. If you enjoyed William Goldman’s The Princess Bride you’ll get a kick out of The Rider. They are cut from the same cloth.
Book Rank - 8.5/10
Edgar Rice Burroughs brings us another tale of high adventure with mysterious villains, noble heroes, and fair maidens. Pure unadulterated fun from page one to the end.