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Ebook The Black Arrow (Library Edition) by Robert Louis Stevenson read! Book Title: The Black Arrow (Library Edition)
The author of the book: Robert Louis Stevenson
Edition: Tantor Media
Date of issue: January 1st 2005
ISBN: 1400130034
ISBN 13: 9781400130030
Language: English
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 550 KB
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Reader ratings: 7.7

Read full description of the books:

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. :-) )

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Read information about the author

Ebook The Black Arrow (Library Edition) read Online! Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson was a Scottish novelist, poet, and travel writer, and a leading representative of English literature. He was greatly admired by many authors, including Jorge Luis Borges, Ernest Hemingway, Rudyard Kipling and Vladimir Nabokov.

Most modernist writers dismissed him, however, because he was popular and did not write within their narrow definition of literature. It is only recently that critics have begun to look beyond Stevenson's popularity and allow him a place in the Western canon.

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