Books for Grownups · Reading

“The Black Arrow” Review

“On a certain afternoon, in the late springtime, the bell upon Tunstall Moat House was heard ringing at an unaccustomed hour.”

So begins The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson. We are making our way through Treasure Island as a family right now (it was an overshoot by Dad; the kids don’t really know what’s going on but are still enjoying it enough that they won’t let me quit and read something closer to their age level!), and I wanted to read something else by Stevenson on my own. The Black Arrow is a lesser known work, but one I had heard of, and so…boom. Thanks Amazon.

In brief, Stevenson leaves the high seas for which he is most famously known for Medieval England during the War of the Roses. Young Richard Shelton is an orphan who has been raised as the ward of Sir Daniel Brackley. On the verge of manhood, Richard begins to suspect that his guardian, who switches from York to Lancaster as the favorable wind blows, may have actually had a hand in the death of his father. In the midst of his search for justice, the young man meets Joan, a woman similarly caught in Brackley’s machinations. Love is born, and in his quest for Joan and his father’s murderer, Richard finds himself amongst thieves and sailors, soldiers and rebellious peasants. Indeed, he finds himself on the front lines of the battle for England itself!

This book grew on me. I know this may sound terribly “low brow,” but the style of writing and the (to our modern ears) cumbersome language were a bit of a hurdle. Not that it isn’t well-written; it is! Personally, however, story-immersion is hindered a bit by the unfamiliarity of the style. Though this held true to the end, over time the story did win out and I ended up really enjoying the novel. I will offer this warning, however: it’s plot is a bit old fashioned. A brave and maturing hero; a damsel in distress; action and adventure; justice served to a clear villain; happily-ever-after.

How delightful!

Profanity1.5I confess that, as I wasn’t reading this with my kids in mind, I may have overlooked a word here or there. However, if anything, the language was very mild.
Violence4Lots of battle and much of it described very close up (not just vague “fighting”). Also hangings, murders, and various wounds given and received.
Sex/Romantic Themes2.5The relationship between Richard and Joan is prominent, but kept physically innocent. There was a kiss or two. 
Lots of drinking and drunkenness. Also, there is a point at which Joan asks Richard if he “made love” to another character, but in the context I got the feeling that “making love” meant something different in Stevenson’s day than it does in ours.

NOTE: As always, my content notes are for informational purposes, not judgmental ones. For a full explanation of my Content Notes and the scale, click here

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