Review 1815: The Black Arrow

I occasionally collect children’s books, mostly those with good illustrations, and a few months ago I started thinking about the books that used to be readily available, all adventure stories by various authors but illustrated by N. C. Wyeth. I decided to look for some of those, and the ones I bought were both by Robert Louis Stevenson, Kidnapped (my personal favorite) and one I’d never read, The Black Arrow.

Young Dick Shelton has lived under the wardship of Sir Daniel Brackley for most of his life and is loyal to him even though he seems to switch sides in the Wars of the Roses rather frequently. But mysterious attacks against his men by a group calling themselves the Black Arrow begin to awaken Dick to feelings of just resentment against Sir Daniel. For he has used the war and his position to cheat people out of their property.

Dick is on his way from Sir Daniel’s encampment when he encounters a boy named Jack Matcham whom he met in the camp. The boy (who everyone but Dick can see is really a girl) asks Dick for his help to get to Holywood. Dick helps Jack, but they fall back into Sir Daniel’s hands. Once there, Dick begins asking about the death of his father, for he has heard rumors that Sir Daniel was responsible.

This is an entertaining adventure story, and I’m not sure why it isn’t as highly regarded as Treasure Island (which has never been one of my favorites). The only thing I can think of to make it not as popular is the archaic speech Stevenson uses, which, while probably not that authentic, did not strike me as inauthentic, if that makes any sense. The novel features plenty of action, some appealing characters and some villains, and Richard of Gloucester (eventually to become Richard III) even makes an appearance as a young man.

Treasure Island

Witch of the Glens

Richard III, England’s Black Legend

9 thoughts on “Review 1815: The Black Arrow

  1. piningforthewest March 9, 2022 / 1:28 pm

    It’s not one of my Stevenson favourites. I intend to read his Master of Ballantrae soonish as I’ve heard that’s a good one.

    • whatmeread March 9, 2022 / 2:55 pm

      I read it a long time ago but don’t remember much about it. I think it’s about two brothers.

  2. Helen March 10, 2022 / 6:12 am

    I thought this was entertaining too, although I prefer some of Stevenson’s other books. I didn’t mind the archaic language but I can see why other people might not like it.

    • whatmeread March 10, 2022 / 10:10 am

      It didn’t bother me, but I thought maybe that was why you don’t hear as much about this one as some others.

  3. Marg March 11, 2022 / 9:44 pm

    I am not sure I have read any Stevenson other than Treasure Island!

    Thanks for sharing your link with the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

    • whatmeread March 12, 2022 / 10:43 am

      Thanks! I tried looking at the website with three different browsers and had the same problem with it, unfortunately.

  4. FictionFan March 14, 2022 / 6:28 pm

    This one is on my CC list so I’m glad you enjoyed it. I think I know what you mean about the authentic/inauthentic language – it just has to feel right within the book even if it’s not really how people would have spoken. Tricky to pull off successfully though!

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