Our rating: ****

After the death of his father, sixteen-year-old David Balfour is preparing to leave the village he grew up in and seek his fortune. As he is leaving, an old friend of the family gives him a sealed letter, written by David’s father, with the instructions to take it to the House of Shaws. David wonders at this, because the Shaws are a wealthy family. Could he be related to them? When he reaches the tumbledown manor house he discovers that the man living there is his uncle. Despite his uncle’s apparent unwillingness to welcome him, David stays a couple of days and stumbles across a mystery. He had always supposed his father to be the younger of the two brothers, but circumstances point to his being the elder, and therefore rightful heir to the estate. When David presses his uncle for the truth in the matter, the cantankerous old man avoids the question, promising to tell David the truth the next day. During the night the uncle tries to kill David, who luckily survives, to the great surprise of his uncle. In one last, desperate attempt to conceal the truth, David’s uncle has him kidnapped and sent away to the Carolinas to be sold as a slave. However, during the early stages of the sea voyage, David falls into the company of a Scottish Rebel called Alan Breck, who helps him escape. Together they make their way through Scotland—Alan set upon his work for the King of France, (much to David’s dismay) and David seeking to return to the House of Shaws and discover the truth.

Great, great story. I enjoyed every page of it. It’s set in Scotland, in 1751, and it’s chock full of adventure. All of the things David goes through, running with Alan, ha ha! David is for King George of England and Alan is for the King of France and Scotland. Much to David’s chagrin, he ends up having to help Alan in his resistance work and gets pinned as a rebel for his pains!

The Black Arrow

Our rating: ****

Ever since his father died, Richard Shelton has been living as the ward of Sir Daniel Brackley. Richard, or Dick, as he is called, has for some time been annoyed with Sir Daniel’s habit of changing sides for material gain. Is Sir Daniel for Lancaster or for York? Dick can’t say, but when he begins to suspect Sir Daniel of having a hand in the murder of his father, Sir Richard Shelton, Dick is faced with a difficult decision. Live with the man who has taken care of him all his life, or avenge his father’s death. At last Dick chooses to avenge his father, but has he delayed too long? Sir Daniel suspects that Dick knows something and wishes to get rid of him as quickly—and permanently—as possible.

And, since that’s such a splendid, suspenseful ending, I’ll leave it there. This is a very good book that takes place during the War of Roses in England. Lancaster and York are the two groups vying for the throne. There’s a thread of romance in the story; Dick becomes separated from his lady fair and spends half the book trying to rescue her. But don’t think that that makes the book dull! On the contrary, I had trouble putting it down. It reminds me of Robin Hood, Ivanhoe, and King Arthur. A very good book, highly recommended by me, and I’m sure multiple others. Plenty of action and, as an added bonus, a secret passage! (Pause for collective ooohs and ahhhs) Okay, so I really liked that part.
The writing style is a little hard to understand at times, but don’t despair. The only time I had to read something twice was when I skipped ahead to peek. Take a lesson from my confusion and don’t skip. This book doesn’t deserve to be read in such a slip-shod, higgledy-piggledy manner. Enjoy!

David Balfour

Our rating: ****

After the events in Kidnapped, David Balfour thinks his life will be easy. Far from it. Now he must go through all sorts of adventures and delays to testify at a trial that is important for the future of Scotland. And if that wasn’t bad enough, now he’s in love with a noble woman named Catriona who, through some mistakes, is left in a strange city with only David as guardian.

Stevenson is a master storyteller. His characters jump off the page, and his action is always exciting. I believe a lot of people could get a lot of nobility out of this book from David and Catriona (and a lot of advice about how not to run your courtship!). David Balfour was also published under the title of Catriona. Oh, and if you haven’t read Kidnapped and have to read David Balfour, don’t worry. Stevenson gives a rather lengthy summary of the previous book.

Treasure Island

Our rating: *****

At the inn Admiral Benbow, an old sea dog appears with a large treasure chest. He stays as a permanent guest, terrorizing everybody, running up large bills, and growing sick. One day, he dies, and Jim Hawkins and his mother (who run the inn) open the chest to take the money the man owed them. However, the old man’s friends from his pirate days have the same idea, and to make up for what his mother hasn’t time to take, Jim grabs a small oilskin bag from the man’s neck. When they open the bag later, it’s found to be a map to Treasure Island!

And that’s just a summary of the first few chapters! It gets even better in the middle. Want a sample? Here you go: pirates, a dangerous sea voyage, mutiny, battles, sneaking, spying, the dreaded Black Spot, a marooned man, treasure… To name a few. I should mention that a some parts get a little intense. It’s great to read Treasure Island out loud, so the whole family can enjoy it.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Our rating: ****

Mr. Utterson, a lawyer, is becoming curious about a mysterious man, Mr. Hyde. Ever since Mr. Utterson saw Mr. Hyde walk right over a child, Mr. Utterson has had a sort of horrid fascination of him. Who is this Mr. Hyde? And why did Dr. Jekyll, a friend of Mr. Utterson, say in his will that, in case of his death or his disappearance, all his money is to go to Mr. Hyde? The problem deepens when Mr. Hyde kills a man and then disappears. Can Mr. Utterson figure out what’s going on?

This is an interesting tale. I suppose it’s considered to be a horror story, (it has a lot of “nameless dreads” and presentiments in it. All I can say is there are a lot of dreads running around without a name) but I only found it to be strange, not scary. At least not this time I read it. There’s one line in there that’s great. Mr. Utterson is trying to find Mr. Hyde and he thinks, “If he be Mr. Hyde, I shall be Mr. Seek.”