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The Black Arrow: A Tale of the Two Roses

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In fifteenth-century England, when his father's murderer is revealed to be his guardian, seventeen-year-old Richard Shelton joins the fellowship of the Black Arrow in avenging the death, rescuing the woman he loves, and participating in the struggle between the Yorks and Lancasters in the War of the


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In fifteenth-century England, when his father's murderer is revealed to be his guardian, seventeen-year-old Richard Shelton joins the fellowship of the Black Arrow in avenging the death, rescuing the woman he loves, and participating in the struggle between the Yorks and Lancasters in the War of the

30 review for The Black Arrow: A Tale of the Two Roses

  1. 4 out of 5

    Werner

    This was a reread for me, but my previous experience of the book was back in junior high school. (A lot of it I consciously remembered; much of it I recalled once reminded, and some of it was like a new book to me.) I'd wanted for some time to reread it, both so as to write a better-informed review and to see if my youthful liking for it held up under the scrutiny of an adult perspective and more experienced taste. Obviously, it did! Some might say I'm too prodigal with five-star ratings; but This was a reread for me, but my previous experience of the book was back in junior high school. (A lot of it I consciously remembered; much of it I recalled once reminded, and some of it was like a new book to me.) I'd wanted for some time to reread it, both so as to write a better-informed review and to see if my youthful liking for it held up under the scrutiny of an adult perspective and more experienced taste. Obviously, it did! Some might say I'm too prodigal with five-star ratings; but based on my sincere enjoyment of it, I couldn't give it less. The Goodreads description is somewhat sensationalized; but the plot does indeed involve war, murder (past and present), revenge, shipwreck, and love which, if not exactly "forbidden," certainly has a lot of obstacles. It also involves derring-do, disguise and concealed identity, outlaws, secret passages and peepholes, elements of mystery, treachery and mortal danger. The whole mix is written in good Romantic style, with its frank appeal to emotional engagement from the reader. Since this is the kind of thing I can eat up with a spoon, its appeal to me isn't hard to understand. But the adventure and romance elements aren't all it offers; there's genuine moral and psychological growth on the part of the main character. Stevenson's gift for adroit, lifelike characterizations is very much on display here. All of the major and many of the secondary characters are sketched with wonderful vividness and depth; and regardless of which side they're on, or whether they're "good" or "bad," they're genuinely nuanced. His portrayal of the two main female characters has won praise (which I agree with) even from one of the more negative reviewers of the book; and I'd say that the male characters are no less round and three-dimensional. I've been a Stevenson fan from childhood, and have read all four of his major novels (and a number of his short stories). Of the three major adventure novels, I like this one the best, though that's not a majority position. Many modern readers are stymied by his (approximate) reproduction of 15th-century dialogue; but for me, this was actually easier to understand than the Scots dialect of Kidnapped and the nautical terminology of Treasure Island. And though I'm not usually a fan of the "romance" (in the Harlequin sense) genre, I like an element of clean romance in a book, and I appreciate stories that incorporate characters from both genders, unlike the nearly all-male, "no girls allowed!" territory of the other two books. A valid criticism of the book is the inaccuracy of Stevenson's portrayal of the future Richard III. The date here is May 1460-January 1461 (not stated directly in the text, but inferred from a reference to the death of the Yorkist leader in battle --Richard, Duke of York was killed in the battle of Wakefield in December, 1460); at that time, the younger Richard was an eight-year-old child. In fairness to Stevenson, he noted the discrepancy himself in a footnote; but if he wanted that character to be 17-18, it might have been better to move the date of the story to 1470-71. More importantly, the very negative portrayal of the latter Richard is taken directly from Shakespeare's Richard III, which itself slavishly follows Sir Thomas More's Tudor-inspired hatchet job on Richard from earlier in the 16th century. In fact, though, while nobody would argue that Richard was a saint (neither were any of the other political leaders of that day) the weight of historical evidence is that he was far less malevolent than More and Shakespeare depicted him. And much of this evidence would already have been available to Stevenson (for instance, in Horace Walpole's Historic Doubts on the Life and Reign of King Richard the Third). Other criticisms, IMO, are less justified. Comparisons between Ellis Duckworth and Robin Hood are inevitable for modern readers, since both are leaders of outlaw bands, living in the woods, using arrows, and at odds with the nasty and powerful local establishment. But while modern pop culture clearly ascribes exclusive title to that territory to Robin Hood, 19th-century British writers and readers were aware that outlawry was a persistent feature of the English scene for centuries after Robin Hood; far from being anachronistic, the social conditions of the Wars of the Roses, with their displacement of the poor and opportunities for legalized plunder by the powerful, were well calculated to mass produce bands of angry and vengeful outlaws with plenty of grievances. (And in the 1400s, arrows are still their projectile weapons of choice, and the forest their natural refuge.) Related to this, no one can deny the influence of Sir Walter Scott on every Romantic historical novelist who followed him, Stevenson included. But that's not the same thing as proving that this novel is a direct knock-off of Ivanhoe. On the contrary, the differences between the two novels are much more significant than the similarities. Finally, Stevenson has been faulted for celebrating ideals of chivalry that are scorned today, and weren't really much followed in the Middle Ages either. The latter reality , of course, is clearly recognized in the book; the villains here are anything but honorable and chivalrous, and things like the summary hanging of prisoners and the sack of Shoreby are realistic for the time, but far from chivalrous. But even if they weren't widely practiced, concepts like keeping one's word even when it would be convenient not to, treating even one's enemies with fairness and respect, and showing mercy and protection to noncombatants actually were held up as social ideals in the 1400s (and for centuries after), and actually were practiced by some individuals. (Other words for "chivalry," in this sense, would be "honor" and "personal integrity.") In choosing to celebrate and encourage these ideals, I would submit that Stevenson has the right of it. This novel was originally serialized in a "story paper" marketed to teenage boys; our hero and heroine here are 17 and 16 years old when we meet them, and the book can be found in the YA or children's sections in some libraries. (I discovered it in my school library.) But teens in the Middle Ages grew up fast; Dick and Joanna think more like, and are treated more like, adults than like today's adolescents. YA readers who can handle late Victorian diction and aren't daunted by medieval dialogue could enjoy this, I think, and identify with the characters. But I personally would characterize this more as an adult novel that happens to have teen protagonists, and that teen readers could enjoy, rather than as a YA novel that some adults could enjoy. (I don't know if that distinction is clear, or helpful to anybody; but I make it for whatever it's worth. :-) )

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    Enjoyable historical fiction set during the Wars of the Roses featuring a merely moderately disfigured Richard of Gloucester (that is, Richard III before he became infamous), ship stealing (and crashing thereof) assaults on fortified houses, minor battles, a sinister leper, sinister wall hangings and a sinister stolen inheritance. Ideal for impressionable children if you want to leave them with a life long suspicion of wall hangings.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Piyangie

    Black Arrow by Robert Louise Stevenson is a historical fiction set in the time of War of the Roses. The book tells the story of a young man named Richard Shelton, who in the quest of obtaining justice for his father's murder and rescuing his love from the grip of the villainous warden, displays loyalty and courage and becomes an important warrior for the Yorks. For his unwavering valor, he is rewarded with a knighthood. The story is interesting enough, but what I liked most is the history that Black Arrow by Robert Louise Stevenson is a historical fiction set in the time of War of the Roses. The book tells the story of a young man named Richard Shelton, who in the quest of obtaining justice for his father's murder and rescuing his love from the grip of the villainous warden, displays loyalty and courage and becomes an important warrior for the Yorks. For his unwavering valor, he is rewarded with a knighthood. The story is interesting enough, but what I liked most is the history that is set as the background to the story, which was quite informative. It is well written using language appropriate for the time period coupled with local dialect. The dramatic quality and fast pace created suspense and set the tone appropriate for the battles. However, I wish Stevenson could have worked on making his writing a little personal and close to heart, for so far I have observed that his writing, though good, is distant and detached. And for this reason, the reader is unable to feel as much for the characters as he ought to. Overall, it was a good, engaging read and I did enjoy it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Loretta

    It was a very enjoyable book but I really liked Treasure Island much more.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Issicratea

    I love Stevenson as a writer, yet The Black Arrow had somehow passed me by before now. Its a medieval Treasure Island, set during the Wars of the Roses and published, like Treasure Island, first pseudonymously as a serial publication (1883), and then as a novel (1888). Like Treasure Island, The Black Arrow is often labeled as childrens fiction, though the current Young Adult category fits it betteri.e. theres a lot in it for old adults as well. Stevenson was amusingly dismissive of this book (he I love Stevenson as a writer, yet The Black Arrow had somehow passed me by before now. It’s a medieval Treasure Island, set during the Wars of the Roses and published, like Treasure Island, first pseudonymously as a serial publication (1883), and then as a novel (1888). Like Treasure Island, The Black Arrow is often labeled as “children’s fiction,” though the current Young Adult category fits it better—i.e. there’s a lot in it for old adults as well. Stevenson was amusingly dismissive of this book (he sympathizes with his wife in the dedicatory letter for never having managed to get through it), but it’s actually a splendid yarn and immensely readable. I ripped through it in a few hours on a long-distance flight: the perfect reading context for a novel of this kind. The quality isn’t uniform—a few passages are “by the yard”—but there’s also some excellent action writing and taut, evocative scene-setting. You can also see interesting anticipations of some of Stevenson’s later novelistic themes, especially in the latter stages, where Richard of Gloucester, the future Richard III, has a memorable cameo as a kind of dark, Hyde-like double to The Black Arrow’s boy protagonist Richard Shelton, revealing the ambiguities in Shelton's own character and actions. I liked someone’s description of this novel in a review on this site as like reading an accelerated Dumas novel. The Black Arrow is certainly closer to Dumas than Scott in terms of historical heft, although it draws substantially on Ivanhoe, especially for its Robin Hood-like band of outlaws. Stevenson makes no attempt to track the actual political events of the 1460s, and he cheerily admits to having adding ten years to Richard III’s age to allow him to participate in the novel’s (entirely fictional) final battle. The point about acceleration is also good. Stevenson writes with great economy, as always. His descriptive language is always graceful and precise, and sometimes inspired. A battered ship in a storm, half-disappearing beneath a wave, “rose on the other side with appalling, tremulous indecision;” the revenge-bent men of a village “came clustering in an inky mass” onto its snow-bound streets. In our first glimpse of the outlaws’ camp, predictably sinister elements—cauldrons, arrows, a deer carcass hung on a hawthorn bush—mix with the surreally poetic (“a man lay slumbering, rolled in a brown cloak, with a butterfly hovering over his face.”) There is something faintly miraculous about reading a simple tale of swashbuckling folk narrated with such refinement. I would happily read a shopping list written by this man.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    "An arrow sang in the air, like a huge hornet; it struck old A-- between the shoulder-blades, and pierced him clean through, and he fell forward on his face among the cabbages." "And then, to the wonder of the lad, this beautiful and tall young lady made but one step of it, and threw her arms about his neck and gave him a hundred kisses all in one." This is an action movie before there were action movies! I can imagine generations of young and old readers bent over this book, as I was, drawn into "An arrow sang in the air, like a huge hornet; it struck old A-- between the shoulder-blades, and pierced him clean through, and he fell forward on his face among the cabbages." "And then, to the wonder of the lad, this beautiful and tall young lady made but one step of it, and threw her arms about his neck and gave him a hundred kisses all in one." This is an action movie before there were action movies! I can imagine generations of young and old readers bent over this book, as I was, drawn into the intrigue and romance. Disguises, secret passageways, piracy, changes of fortune--The Black Arrow has it all. I appreciated that the hero, gallant as he was, had many lessons to learn and had to come to terms with his youthful inexperience. And I was glad for two strong heroines who acted on their own. A neat side-effect, too, is that I have become curious to learn more about the War of the Roses. If in any way the tale fell short, it seemed to me that the ending was a bit too quick and clean. And violence is frequently (but not always) glamorized. Overall, however, I keenly enjoyed The Black Arrow. It lit up these dark winter hours.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Wilkins

    I have no idea why The Black Arrow is not canon in the way that Treasure Island or Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hide are. It is a fantastic read, especially if you are like me and are in any way attracted to all things medieval. But there is much to love for anyone who is fond of thrilling adventure and surprisingly complex characters: sword fights, maidens in distress who are yet not helpless, class warfare ala Robin Hood, spies, historical figures, revenge, love, thieves, daring night raids from the sea I have no idea why The Black Arrow is not canon in the way that Treasure Island or Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hide are. It is a fantastic read, especially if you are like me and are in any way attracted to all things medieval. But there is much to love for anyone who is fond of thrilling adventure and surprisingly complex characters: sword fights, maidens in distress who are yet not helpless, class warfare ala Robin Hood, spies, historical figures, revenge, love, thieves, daring night raids from the sea - the list goes on and on. The book is not perfect. There are moments in the middle when the plot languishes, and the ending feels a bit too much like RLS was running out of time at the end of an exam and had to rush everything to its conclusion. But I have to give it five stars, despite its flaws, because, like every Robert Louis Stevenson book I've ever read, I could not put it down. I couldn't put it down, but there are scenes from the book that I will always remember. It is exceedingly rare for a book to be both gripping and memorable. I think he manages this by both painting with broad, exciting strokes, and attaching real consequences to the characters. The story is set up in a well-written, but fairly standard way, with a clear hero with a clear mission and clear enemies to struggle against. But though the hero proceeds to fight and slaughter his way toward what he wants in the most heroic fashion, he is actually changed by this. He is made to see that what he does, even when he had good intentions, has negative consequences. He is made to feel guilt for his more deplorable actions and the reader is asked to look at the actions themselves - not to excuse them just because he is the hero. Because of this, Dick Shelton is as memorable a character as any in literature. I strongly recommend the book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    George Jankovic

    This book was such an unexpected dissapointment. It was one of my 20 or so favorites when I was a kid. My son is now of that age and I wanted to recommend it to him so, just in case, I wanted to re-read it first since I didn't remember anything except that it was set in England during the War of the Roses period. It is an interesting coming-of-age adventure story with action, revenge, and forbidden love. Unfortunately, it is so poorely written. Considering how much I liked it then, I will give This book was such an unexpected dissapointment. It was one of my 20 or so favorites when I was a kid. My son is now of that age and I wanted to recommend it to him so, just in case, I wanted to re-read it first since I didn't remember anything except that it was set in England during the War of the Roses period. It is an interesting coming-of-age adventure story with action, revenge, and forbidden love. Unfortunately, it is so poorely written. Considering how much I liked it then, I will give it a blended score of 3 (the average of 5 and 1). I was so excited... Now I am heart-broken :(

  9. 5 out of 5

    [Name Redacted]

    Another classic, child-hood favorite! I haven't read it in over 20 years, so it's time for a re-read! ~ I'm glad I re-read it! I appreciated it on a number of different levels this time around, beyond simply enjoying the action, adventure and romance aspects. There were all sorts of historical characters and events that 9 year-old Ian failed to recognize (apparently, I didn't know much about Richard III or the War of the Roses back then). Stevenson creates arguably the most successful fictional Another classic, child-hood favorite! I haven't read it in over 20 years, so it's time for a re-read! ~ I'm glad I re-read it! I appreciated it on a number of different levels this time around, beyond simply enjoying the action, adventure and romance aspects. There were all sorts of historical characters and events that 9 year-old Ian failed to recognize (apparently, I didn't know much about Richard III or the War of the Roses back then). Stevenson creates arguably the most successful fictional adaptation of Richard III, presenting him as a complex, multifaceted man who, while not conventionally likable, is a brilliant leader and powerful warrior. I also suspect that this novel formed the inspiration for Lloyd Alexander's The Book of Three, as the relationship between Dick & John reminded me of the relationship between Taran & Eilonwy. Despite Stevenson's own contempt for this novel, I appreciated its frank depiction of the wages of war and the complicated nature of the York/Lancaster struggled. Definitely a book I'll be reading to or recommending to my children!

  10. 4 out of 5

    WhatIReallyRead (Anna)

    This was a really fun read. A young, brave, noble hero and a young, fierce heroine go on an adventure. There's lots of action and danger, and you really root for the main characters, because they have such good hearts, honesty, and depth of feeling. I'll be honest, I didn't really pay very close attention to the fighting scenes, of which there were plenty. It felt a little naive. Had I read it as a teenager, I think it would have joined my "favorites" shelf.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Simon Mcleish

    Originally published on my blog here in January 2002. This medieval romance is one of Stevenson's minor adventure stories. Its main character is naive young noble Richard Shenton, who discovers that his guardian is in fact an evil man who murdered Richard's father and who looks to become wealthy by continually swapping sides in the Wars of the Roses. (The point of the guardianship is this. When a noble heir was orphaned, his revenues until he came of age were in the hands of his liege lord, or Originally published on my blog here in January 2002. This medieval romance is one of Stevenson's minor adventure stories. Its main character is naive young noble Richard Shenton, who discovers that his guardian is in fact an evil man who murdered Richard's father and who looks to become wealthy by continually swapping sides in the Wars of the Roses. (The point of the guardianship is this. When a noble heir was orphaned, his revenues until he came of age were in the hands of his liege lord, or such guardian as he appointed; moreover, the guardian was also frequently granted the tax payable on coming of age or marriage. These rights were the subject of lucrative trade in medieval England, and were one of the crown's major sources of income.) To a modern reader, the main obstacle in The Black Arrow and the major reason it is less well known than, say, Treasure Island, is the flowery pseudo-medieval language used in the dialogue. This is something that has gradually been toned down in historical novels during the twentieth century, until now they are usually written with characters who speak more or less colloquial modern English. This is due to a change in philosophy; it is now considered better to accessibly reproduce what it felt like to be alive at the time the novel is set than to attempt to literally recreate it, and a modern reader will react differently to the kind of language used here from the way their medieval counterpart would have done to hearing it spoken. (And, of course, there was more regional and class based differentiation between individuals when people travelled less widely; this would be extremely difficult to duplicate, even for an expert in dialect development. Writers like Scott, Morris, Stevenson and so on didn't attempt to do this, and gave their characters dialogue based on a romanticised version of the formal speeches in medieval poetry - at least as inauthentic as modern usage.) One of the merits of Stevenson's writing is the imperfection of his heroes. They tend to be - as Shelton is here - naive, not too bright, but with a strong moral sense; this makes them more interesting than the characters of many of the other writers of what might be termed proto-thrillers. Interestingly, when first published in serial form, The Black Arrow was more successful than Treasure Island had been; this ordering has since been reversed to leave the earlier novel as one of the classics of English popular fiction with The Black Arrow as just another novel by the same writer.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Gary Hoggatt

    Since I enjoyed Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and enjoy medieval history, Stevenson's The Black Arrow would seem to be a perfect combination. The tale is solid, but unfortunately there are a few issues prevent it from delivering on its promise. The Black Arrow, first published as a serial in 1883 and as a novel in 1888, follows the adventures of Dick Shelton as he discovers that his guardian may be responsible for the death of his father and Since I enjoyed Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and enjoy medieval history, Stevenson's The Black Arrow would seem to be a perfect combination. The tale is solid, but unfortunately there are a few issues prevent it from delivering on its promise. The Black Arrow, first published as a serial in 1883 and as a novel in 1888, follows the adventures of Dick Shelton as he discovers that his guardian may be responsible for the death of his father and seeks justice, attempts to rescue his betrothed from the clutches of said guardian, and gets swept up in the tumult of the War of the Roses. Shelton comes across throughout the book as mostly naive and occasionally cruel and self-centered, and he seems to blunder from one encounter to the next. In short, it's hard to really root for him or care about him, as he has few redeeming qualities, but he's also just not that interesting, either. I've read other books where the main characters aren't exactly heroes (such as George R.R. Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice series), but in those cases, the main characters were at least plotting and scheming and being actively devious, which is entertaining. Shelton shows a bit of character growth at the end of the novel, showing regret about some of the dubious actions he took while trying to rescue his betrothed, but it isn't enough to redeem him as an interesting character. Another downside to the book is the disjointed nature of it. It feels very episodic, as if Stevenson approached each chapter thinking, "Okay, what trouble can Dick Shelton get into next?" This precludes any sort of build-up of tension, and also results in a limit to how much each episode is affected by those that came earlier. When I started reading the book, I was not aware that it had first been serialized, but by the time I finished it, I guessed it had, as it read like a collection of episodes, and I'm aware it was common practice at the time (Stevenson's Treasure Island was first published serially in the same magazine as The Black Arrow, and even Charles Dickens released his work that way). The old fashioned language was a difficulty in getting into the book. I was reminded of watching a Shakespearean play, where it takes you a scene or two to really get into the old language and follow along relatively clearly. I had no trouble with the similarly jargon-laden and old fashioned Treasure Island. Maybe I just speak pirate better than I do knight. The best parts of the book are the action scenes. These are strong, and helps redeem some of the other shortcomings of the novel. There are chases through forests, spying and sneaking, one on one combats, and large battles. I think I'm probably being harder on this book than it might deserve because I'm holding up against Stevenson's other work. It's okay, it just lacks the life and energy of Treasure Island or the creepy tension of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and isn't the same sort of genre-defining work as those two stories. I listened to the audio version read by Shelly Frasier. Frasier doesn't stand out with this book, though she isn't inherently bad, either, and I wouldn't avoid her in other productions. I didn't especially care for her reading this book, though, primarily because 95% of the characters are male, and having to decipher her narrow range of fake male voices to track who was speaking on top of following along with the difficult language wasn't an ideal combination. The Black Arrow is a solid book that has the misfortune to have been written by an author with other fantastic books that outshine it. If you like medieval stories, you'll probably enjoy The Black Arrow, but I can't recommend it to the general reader like I can Treasure Island or Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. If you're interested, check out my reviews Stevenson's Treasure Island and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde here on Amazon for more of my thoughts on those works.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Hafsa Sabira

    The Black Arrow is a romance and historical adventure novel which is based on the Wars of the Roses and tells the story of Richard (Dick) Shelton. The whole plot revolves around Richard becoming a true English hero from a mere ward of Sir Daniel, who is the real villain of the novel. Through so many struggles, betrayals and near-death escapes, Richard gradually earns his rightful knight title, saves his lady Joanna who accompanies him the whole time disguised as a boy and avenges his father's The Black Arrow is a romance and historical adventure novel which is based on the Wars of the Roses and tells the story of Richard (Dick) Shelton. The whole plot revolves around Richard becoming a true English hero from a mere ward of Sir Daniel, who is the real villain of the novel. Through so many struggles, betrayals and near-death escapes, Richard gradually earns his rightful knight title, saves his lady Joanna who accompanies him the whole time disguised as a boy and avenges his father's brutal death. The novel with such alluring characters and storyline reminded me of the other literary writings in the similar era. However, those who are into these modern detective, thriller genre, may not enjoy this novel much as it totally gives a classic vibe with a rather biased narrative.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Paul Clayton

    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 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. :)

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    2.5 stars. I expected to like this a lot more. Stevenson though The Black Arrow would earn even more acclaim than Treasure Island, but it doesn't come close. The story itself is a slightly-out-of-kilter historical fiction set during the War of the Roses, but it strikes the reader more like a rip-off of Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, published two generations earlier. Even Stevenson admitted that he fudged some historic facts for the sake of his plot. And the thinly disguised Robin Hood theme is thin 2.5 stars. I expected to like this a lot more. Stevenson though The Black Arrow would earn even more acclaim than Treasure Island, but it doesn't come close. The story itself is a slightly-out-of-kilter historical fiction set during the War of the Roses, but it strikes the reader more like a rip-off of Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, published two generations earlier. Even Stevenson admitted that he fudged some historic facts for the sake of his plot. And the thinly disguised Robin Hood theme is thin soup. The whole celebrates the last glow of a chivalry which probably only existed in the minds of the Romantics. The dialogue was awful. Stevenson tried to recreate fifteenth century English, which was probably quaint in his day. A hundred fifty years later, it's almost unreadable. One notable point was Stevenson's treatment of the female cast. At a time when women are rarely mentioned in adventure stories (see Treasure Island), this story features two intelligent, active and heroic female characters. Given their time and place, each is more realistic and sympathetic than many of the ridiculous female wonder women featured in modern adventure stories. If anything, the naive innocent of the tale is the male lead. An interesting, if not a good read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

    I first read this when I was twelve, and greatly enjoyed it. Coming back to it years later, I couldn't help but notice that I liked the three villains much more than I liked the main character. I don't just mean that the villains are more interesting as characters, because that's quite common. I mean that at least the three bad guys had the good grace to feel bad for their misdeeds, and showed care and affection for their fellow-men. Our hero Richard Shelton, on the contrary, will kiss the ass of I first read this when I was twelve, and greatly enjoyed it. Coming back to it years later, I couldn't help but notice that I liked the three villains much more than I liked the main character. I don't just mean that the villains are more interesting as characters, because that's quite common. I mean that at least the three bad guys had the good grace to feel bad for their misdeeds, and showed care and affection for their fellow-men. Our hero Richard Shelton, on the contrary, will kiss the ass of a social superior, and knife to death a social inferior without a moment's qualm. A squire brings him armor at the beginning of a battle, and while helping Richard don the coat, the squire is shot to death- Richard barely notices. He commands dozens of men, never bothers to learn the names of any of them, and shows not a tittle of guilt when his terrible decisions get them killed. I kind of want to re-write the book now, but make Bennet Hatch, Sir Oliver, and Sir Daniel the good guys, who are trying to stop Dick Shelton's murder spree.

  17. 4 out of 5

    GoldGato

    The definition of "tushery" = the use of affectedly archaic language in novels. This word was coined by the great Robert Louis Stevenson for his own BLACK ARROW, a swashbuckling tale of the Wars of the Roses. RLS was not the biggest fan of his own Lancaster versus York story, so he invented a word to describe the use of the many antiquated words in this historical novel. "Ay, friend, a whole tale of tushery. And every tusher tushes me so free, that may I be tushed if the whole thing is worth a The definition of "tushery" = the use of affectedly archaic language in novels. This word was coined by the great Robert Louis Stevenson for his own BLACK ARROW, a swashbuckling tale of the Wars of the Roses. RLS was not the biggest fan of his own Lancaster versus York story, so he invented a word to describe the use of the many antiquated words in this historical novel. "Ay, friend, a whole tale of tushery. And every tusher tushes me so free, that may I be tushed if the whole thing is worth a tush." Tush, mush. I love this tale of red rose against white rose, as it was the first book to enthrall me in the tangled web of 15th century England. Here we have Richard Crookback as the Duke of Gloucester, the leader of the Yorkist armies but not yet Richard III. Characters change sides, swords clash, and arrows fly, especially black arrows. Stevenson never disappoints. Book Season = Summer (cockatrice's nest)

  18. 4 out of 5

    R.

    didn't finish and I doubt I ever will this book was originally written as a serial, so as I expected, the action doesn't really form a plot. I was ready to forgive this initially, but due to several other annoying elements, the randomness of the action got on my nerves. There's not one driving question that grips me to the end. I feel no curiosity to pick up the book and see how it ends. The characters were the worst part. Dick is a highly idealistic character. Being a romantic, Stevenson would no didn't finish and I doubt I ever will this book was originally written as a serial, so as I expected, the action doesn't really form a plot. I was ready to forgive this initially, but due to several other annoying elements, the randomness of the action got on my nerves. There's not one driving question that grips me to the end. I feel no curiosity to pick up the book and see how it ends. The characters were the worst part. Dick is a highly idealistic character. Being a romantic, Stevenson would no doubt have considered this characteristic charming. I found his naivete exasperating. He fights for several people all at once (even if they are enemies). He joined a fight, and, not knowing who's-who simply joins the underdog. Joana is supposedly as brave Joan of Arc. I thought she was a moony and spindly (sorry, but that ain't Joan of Arc, Dick) the writing style had nothing to hold me

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mike (the Paladin)

    This book probably deserves a higher rating than 3 stars, but I just never got used to the language. It's been some time since I've read Stevenson. I like the story and of course the legendary happenings. In the midst of the War of the Roses vengeance being taken by black arrows with names of the one to be slain engraved on them/it. It's an exciting story based in a historic time. Just get used to the language (LOL). Sometimes, "me thinks, it me like's not"... :)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Renee M

    Light on history. Heavy with the trappings of adventure. This was a lot of fun to read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Pamela Shropshire

    This is a romantic tale in the classic sense of the word. Young Richard Shelton, age 17, is caught up in the civil war known in English history as the Wars of the Roses, which was basically a feud between two branches of the Plantagenet dynasty: the Yorkists, represented by a white rose, and the Lancastrians, represented by a red rose. Dick, as he is most often called, is an orphan, and his guardian is Sir Daniel Brackley. Sir Daniel is, at the time of this story, on the Lancaster side, although This is a romantic tale in the classic sense of the word. Young Richard Shelton, age 17, is caught up in the civil war known in English history as the Wars of the Roses, which was basically a feud between two branches of the Plantagenet dynasty: the Yorkists, represented by a white rose, and the Lancastrians, represented by a red rose. Dick, as he is most often called, is an orphan, and his guardian is Sir Daniel Brackley. Sir Daniel is, at the time of this story, on the Lancaster side, although he has changed as it was convenient to do so. While his guardian is away, Dick repeatedly hears rumors that Sir Daniel was responsible for his father’s death. He meets another young man who is in Sir Daniel’s control against his will, so the two of them run away. Jack, as Dick has been calling his new friend, intends to seek sanctuary at a nearby abbey. Dick, meanwhile, falls in with a group of outlaws known as the Black Arrows, all of whom have a just grievance against Sir Daniel. So Dick and Jack, who have become quite close, reluctantly separate - and of course, later Dick learns that Jack is actually Joanna. Meanwhile Dick has all kinds of adventures with the outlaws. He declares himself for York, mostly because Sir Daniel supports Lancaster. Unlike his guardian, though, Daniel, once declared, sticks to his chosen side, and subsequently, meets and fights with Richard, Duke of Gloucester who eventually becomes the much maligned Richard III. Stevenson insets a footnote that Richard would in reality have been much younger at this time in history. Dick discovers Joanna has fallen into Sir Daniel’s hands again, and he plans to sell her marriage to one of his cronies. Dick takes some men and goes after them, and of course he is, in the end, victorious; Sir Daniel’s villainy is exposed; and Dick and Joanna are married. This is quite an entertaining adventure story, and if a reader has an iota of curiosity, the events in the book should led her to explore the real history of the period. As long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed reading historical fiction, and it never fails to spark my interest to explore further. I would have given this a solid 5 stars when I was younger; today I would give it 3.5, so for sentiment’s sake, I’ll bump it up to 4 stars.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    The Black Arrow's setting is amidst the Battle of Roses between the Yorks and Lancasters. Dick Shelton, a gutsy orphan, finds that his guardian is foe rather than friend and to complicate matters falls in love with a rich young lady, Joanna, who is also his guardian's ward. The story reminds me of a cross between a Sir Walter Scott romance and a Robin Hood story. I enjoyed this blast from the past, but it won't be a book for everyone because thee will findeth it useth olde English.... 3.5 stars

  23. 5 out of 5

    Alicia Willis

    I liked this book. It was an interesting story and it did keep me reading. However, there were some quirks. Some parts were hard to follow, others didn't seem quite historical. Overall, this is a good story. but not one I would read many times over.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Nay, by the rood! If that I could give the book a fourth star. But alas, I find that I cannot. Suffice it to be contented with three, yet, by my sooth, three and a half stars is what I feel its worth to be.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tom Donaghey

    THE BLACK ARROW (1888) by Robert Louis Stevenson is a first rate action adventure tale of young Dick Shelton and set during Englands War of the Roses. Dick is an orphan with a powerful guardian and has been raised amount the forests and fields of England to be a brave, stout hearted fellow, true to his word and bound by his pledges. When he and another young but callow fellow, Jack, escape from a peril filled situation, Dick pledges to aid Jack in his further passage through danger and to THE BLACK ARROW (1888) by Robert Louis Stevenson is a first rate action adventure tale of young Dick Shelton and set during England’s War of the Roses. Dick is an orphan with a powerful guardian and has been raised amount the forests and fields of England to be a brave, stout hearted fellow, true to his word and bound by his pledges. When he and another young but callow fellow, Jack, escape from a peril filled situation, Dick pledges to aid Jack in his further passage through danger and to sanctuary at the religious center of Holyrood. There are many daring escapes and battles, and Dick and Jack fall in with men of the Black Arrow, men of all calibre that have loosely banded together to fight the injustices that have stricken them at the fickle hands of the local Lords and knights. The tale escalates from a carefree romp in the woods on a late autumn day to attacks by ship upon a fortified stronghold and on into a pitched battle at the side of Richard, only an Earl at the time but destined to be king of the realm soon. It is easy to see why this novel is still in print and it is a fine example of Mr. Stevenson’s work. I highly recommend it for a little escapist reading.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Michael Fitzgerald

    Felt a bit long. Good to be immersed in older language, including slang. Narrator had an odd accent, maybe not great for extended passages, but good for dialogue.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Duffy Pratt

    The surprising thing to me was that there aren't any likable characters in this book. Richard Shelton, the hero, is a bit of a dolt. On top of his lack of cleverness, he does several vile things, including murder and piracy. He's loyal and courageous, and by the end he acknowledges and tries to make up for some of his faults. But he is not the dashing, swashbuckling hero, played inevitably by Errol Flynn or Gene Kelly in the musical version. Richard, however, is likeable compared to either the The surprising thing to me was that there aren't any likable characters in this book. Richard Shelton, the hero, is a bit of a dolt. On top of his lack of cleverness, he does several vile things, including murder and piracy. He's loyal and courageous, and by the end he acknowledges and tries to make up for some of his faults. But he is not the dashing, swashbuckling hero, played inevitably by Errol Flynn or Gene Kelly in the musical version. Richard, however, is likeable compared to either the company he keeps or to his "betters." His guardian is a horrible character, and paints a giant stain on the medieval idea of nobility. Then, along the way, Richard becomes a favorite of Richard Crookback who is, if anything, even worse than his guardian. And his companions through most of the book are theives and cutthroats, bound together to get revenge against Richard's guardian. Take these despicable people, throw them into the midst of the War of the Roses, add in a beautiful maiden disguised as a boy, a forced marriage, a few pitched battles, heros disguised as monks, piracy and a shipwreck -- all this adds up to a very fun, tightly paced story. The fake medieval dialogue marred things a bit, but overall I quite enjoyed this.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mike Roach

    I soooo wanted to like this book. The author is a good dead white European male (all pluses in my book) and the subject matter is medieval English history. It will be like Sir Walter Scott! Well, no. First, the dialogue is hokey, the scenes with the love interest who is mistaken to be a boy are supposed to be hilarious in a Yentl sort of way (the same thing happens in Swiss Family Robinson, how does one mistake a twenty year old woman for a fourteen year old boy? Seriously, Lois Lane is more I soooo wanted to like this book. The author is a good dead white European male (all pluses in my book) and the subject matter is medieval English history. It will be like Sir Walter Scott! Well, no. First, the dialogue is hokey, the scenes with the love interest who is mistaken to be a boy are supposed to be hilarious in a Yentl sort of way (the same thing happens in Swiss Family Robinson, how does one mistake a twenty year old woman for a fourteen year old boy? Seriously, Lois Lane is more perceptive around Clark Kent than these guys) but comes out as just horrendously awkward, and lastly the protagonist is not only non-MENSA material, he's quite proud of it. I was underwhelmed.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Wealhtheow

    In the midst of the Wars of the Roses, a young man discovers that his guardian had a hand in his father's death. Presumably, he swears vengeance and joins the resistance hiding in the forest. This is a likable, engaging book, and the action is excitingly told and immediately had me hooked. I'm just not in the mood for a romping medieval adventure told in dialect right now, though, so perhaps someday I'll pick this up again.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sylvester

    While not my favorite of RLS, there was nonetheless all the action and thrills my heart could desire. Loved the old-fashioned language, loved all the bits about the black arrows being meant for specific men, taking them down one by one. This is a perfect Y/A novel, wish I had read it when I was such a thing still.

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