The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
Finally! A book that I haven’t read before, and number three of my summer challenge! I am now, officially, 10% of the way to meeting my goal!
The Black Arrow is a bit of a Robin Hoodesque tale. It takes places, however, not during the Crusades, but during the War of Roses. The story follows a boy named Richard (Dick) Shelton as he makes the shift from orphaned squire to outlawed renegade, to Sir Richard, Knight. It also follows his growth from impetuous boy to star-crossed lover. It is filled with mystery, intrigue, revenge, war, and, ultimately, heroism.
Sexual Content: 10/10
This story was very clean. There are a few kisses bartered, but that’s about all.
Spiritual Content: 10/10
This is set during the War of Roses and the European world was bursting at the seams with religion. It was as much a part of life as was air. Religion isn’t, by any means, a focus of this book, but it is treated very respectfully. Since, of course, the War of Roses took place before the Protestant Reformation the dominant form of Christianity was Catholicism. All religious references made within the book are understood within this context.
This is a book about knights during a time of civil war. There is violence, but nothing that I found too disturbing. Several people are hung, many are stabbed or shot with arrows, but nothing is described in graphic detail.
This was a great story. It had something in it for everyone: Romance, mystery, betrayal, intrigue, revenge, historical references, outlaws in green livery, etc. It was an east story to follow and the ending was immensely satisfying.
There was nothing truly remarkable about the style of this book, other than the fact that it didn’t bog you down with unnecessary details. That, in of itself, is enough to warrant a high score from me. Stevenson assumed that his readers would be familiar with the period in which he wrote, and that, if they were not, they could easily familiarize themselves with it (which, now, is not so unjust an expectation). I love it when authors just tell you the story. I don’t care about every flower in the meadow or about the deep history of a particular rock in a field. I bought the book to read the particular story in it, I don’t need you to tell me a dozen others!, Stevenson always does really well in that regard.
I enjoyed the characters. I really did! They just weren’t the best characters ever. They were nice, but somewhat lacking in personality compared, say with the infamous Richard of Glouscher. Dick was nice, but seemed to be confused. At times he was hot headed and impetuous, and at others he was really cool and mature. I also thought that he fell in love way too fast, given the circumstances… Joan also, was lacking something (I’m not sure what). I did, however, very much like Jack Matcham. They were all good characters, they just weren’t great.
The themes of this book were pretty fun. It explored the nature of heroism as it related to questions of loyalty and honor. Dick, of course, is the hero, but he doesn’t have all of the answers at first. In fact, no one around him really has the answers either. He has to discover true heroism for himself. It’s nice that the concept of honor is completely separated from revenge. The true hero, we are taught, deals in mercy, and not in bitter ‘justice’. It was very well done.
Overall Conclusion: 8.5/10
This was a great story. I must admit, I find myself lucky lately in picking very good ones. We’ll see how that holds during the rest of the summer. I really couldn’t put this book down, and I kept remarking to my family about how good it was. I do wish, however, that the characters had been developed a bit more fully. I would still, however, recommend this book to everyone.
Next Book: Scaramouch