Paul Clayton's Reviews > The Black Arrow
The Black Arrow
by Robert Louis Stevenson
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Paul Clayton's review
Jan 02, 11
Recommended to Paul by: No one.
Recommended for: Everybody.
Read from October 06 to November 15, 2010 — I own a copy, read count: 1
I really enjoyed The Black Arrow by Robert Luis Stevenson. I read the original version published by Dover publications, with footnotes defining obscure terms- a quarrel, for instance, is not a discussion with your wife or husband of fifteen years, but rather a 'bolt' or arrow used in a crossbow; a bill is not what AT&T keeps sending you for your voracious online video viewing, but a weapon with a metal spike and a hook, mounted on a pole. Dozens more words, not footnoted, will send you to your dictionary, or your OED, more likely. I loved the phrasing, the old archaic words, camping in the cold snow, the roaring fires. By the rood (the cross), 'twas a tale to enchant o're many a night. The beginning was strange. Set in England during the War of the Roses, young Dick Shelton throws in his lot with a strange looking boy his age, a boy who would be 'well favored for a wench,' that is, good looking for a girl, but effeminate for a boy. Earlier, Sir Daniel, Dick's warden, and the villain of the story, is sitting in an inn by the fire, plotting. Near him a 'young lad, apparently of twelve or thirteen,' sleeps in the straw. Sir Daniel says to him (this exchange confused the hell out of me), "... I took you, indeed, roughly, as the time demanded; but from hencforth... Ye shall be Mrs. Shelton... Master John. Sit ye down, sweetheart, and eat." The boy replies, "Nay, I will break no bread. Since ye force me to this sin, I will fast for my soul's interest." Throughout this chapter, the boy is referred to as 'the lad' and "Master John,' and it is not until much later that we discover that the boy is really a young woman, Joan, stolen for her value as a bride, who Dick will marry at the end of the tale. The book is genre, adventure fiction, but hyper-realistic, in my opinion. Most striking is the portrayal of an old world where cruelty is the norm. This is the kind of realism you rarely find in novels. And we're not just talking about cruelty to people, but cruelty to animals that most moderns would go to war over. One example is when Joan's horse gets mired in the quicksand and Dick shoots a quarrel into its head. The Black Arrow has plenty of period detail, plot, and action. Robert Luis Stevenson is a writer to watch. :)
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