The Black Arrow: A Tale of the Two Roses (Scribner's Illustrated Classics)

by Robert Louis Stevenson

Other authorsN. C. Wyeth (Illustrator)
Hardcover, 1987



Local notes

Fic Ste

Illustrated by N.C. Wyeth




Charles Scribner's Sons (1987), Edition: Library Binding, 328 pages. $22.95.


A young Englishman, seeking to avenge the death of his father, becomes involved in the band of the Black Arrow and the events of the War of the Roses.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

328 p.; 7.36 inches


0684188775 / 9780684188775



User reviews

LibraryThing member lossealasse
Dick Shelton finds himself up to his ears in adventure when his uncle tries to force him to marry a girl he's never seen and the forest outlaws start assassinating various close friends. This book is one of the most exciting historical romances I've ever read. The heroine is lots of fun, the drunken sidekick is hilarious, and did I mention the thrilling adventure?… (more)
LibraryThing member cmbohn
This is a rowdy boy's adventure story set during the Wars of the Roses between the Yorkists and the Lancastrians in England. (My 15 year old had never heard of the War of the Roses, so I'm offering a little explanation here.) Dick Shelton is an orphan who is being fostered by a tough warrior type. Then he finds out that a band of outlaws has targeted his benefactor and others as being responsible for the deaths of many people, including Dick's father.

So who can Dick trust? Practically no one, it seems. That part is kind of dark. But there's a romance too, and plenty of fight scenes thrown in for no apparent reason whenever the story slows down. Don't look for a lot of plot continuity in here. There isn't much. But there are plenty of sword fights, being captured and then daring escapes, a guy disguised as a leper, and lots more. I got kind of tired of it, really. Too much going on. I was glad to be at the part with Richard of Gloucester, the Crookback, who became King Richard III. But he doesn't show up until the end of the book.

I would recommend this if you like adventure type stories and if you don't mind loosely plotted book. Or if you want to see what kid's books were like once upon a time. For the modern reader, I think it's a little tougher going.
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LibraryThing member cogarch
I read this to tie up a loose end after starting it as a child and never finishing. Although I'm glad that I've now done so it was a bit of a struggle -- much more so than Treasure Island, which at least has the merit of being iconic and a necessary part of the canon. By contrast The Black Arrow turned out to be excessively episodic, melodramatic (although not without some character complexities) and obfuscated throughout with Stephenson's idea of medieval modes of speech. At times I felt like I'd stumbled into a low-grade HBO mega-series in which the plot churns feverishly in order to keep the series going for 26 episodes.… (more)
LibraryThing member Bridgey
Like most people I was introduced to RLS through Treasure Island. But since those early days of pirate adventures I seem to have overlooked his other works. Thinking it was about time I read another of his novels I came across The Black Arrow in a local bookshop and thought I would give it a try.

The story itself is pretty sturdy, we follow the adventures of Richard Shelton as he seeks to find the true story of his father's death. Set during the war of the Roses, England is in turmoil with people changing allegiance to which ever rose is winning, subterfuge and battles are at every turn, throw in a bit of young, forbidden love and you have the ingredients of a 'boys own' adventure.

The main problem for me was that the story just seemed to drag, and coupled with characters speaking an archaic 'middle English' language it made for quite a painful read. It hasn't put me off reading more RLS but it has certainly lowered my expectations.
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LibraryThing member antiquary
This has a certain grim humor I enjoy, particularly when the villain is waiting out a battle to see which side wins.
LibraryThing member thesmellofbooks
Brilliant! Stevenson's superb use of language would have been enough to keep me turning the pages, but there is so much more. A rousing adventure story, a believable, well wrought world and characters, and a view of war not as good against evil but as something infinitely more complex. Dick Shelton is neither hero nor buffoon, but a young human being in challenging circumstances who succeeds, fails, and learns lessons about war and consequences that never border on preaching. I am so glad I finally discovered this book--so many lesser lights pale in memory! (Actually, a lot of them were pretty pale to begin with.)… (more)
LibraryThing member MrsLee
A fun adventure from the War of the Roses. Knights, derring-do, spies and love. A great read if you enjoy these types of stories.
LibraryThing member edgeworth
This one was a bit of a disappointment after Kidnapped. Set in fifteenth century England during the War of Roses, it follows young Dick Shelton as he dicovers his guardian plotting against him, and flees, and gets caught up with some outlaws, and tries to find the girl he loves… at some point there’s a battle. Also they steal a guy’s ship and then wreck it. Thing is, all the dialogue (and much of the prose) is written in archaic English, which makes following the plot quite difficult. As with Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, it was a chore to read and I only had a general idea of what was happening most of the time. Apparently everybody else concurred, from critics to readers to Stevenson himself, who referred to it as “tushery.” A waste of time for all involved! I’ll prrobably still read Treasure Island at some point.… (more)
LibraryThing member MarquesadeFlambe
A very exciting novel, although later on it never quite recaptures the feel of the first part.
LibraryThing member breadcrumbreads
Finally!! After weeks and weeks of reading this book I am finally done! The Black Arrow simply has to be the dullest book I have ever read! Masquerading as a swashbuckling novel of merely a couple of hundred pages, I found it to be slow in language, contrived in style, pathetic in characterisation, and sloppy of plot. If you're wondering why I plodded my way through this then...well...I can only say that once having started it I figured I simply had to finish it. The story is set during the period of the wars between the two disctinct branches (also known as the red and white roses) of the Plantagenet line. Its protaganist is a young man by the name of Richard Shelton who will stop at nothing to save the woman he is in love with. He enlists the help of the league of the Black Arrow - a bunch of outlaws and outcasts - and gets involved in the war that rages around him.*SPOILER WARNING*The brief summary doesn't sound to bad, does it? Except that Richard Shelton is an extremely weak character who inspires absolutely nothing in the least, he invoked no positive response from me! He was a dithering lad with plenty of bravado but no wisdom or commonsense. And while this does not necessarly make a protaganist unworthy (in fact it does not if the characterization is done well) Richard was plainly a fool. One must give him credit for seeing it himself at the end of the novel, but I did wonder what it was that Joanna (the heroine) found in him! The characterization was so dreadfully shallow. There wasn't a single character that was rounded. They were all as flat and dry as cardboard. And it seemed to me that the only reason young Dicky survives right up till the end of the novel is because he had the good fortune of being the author's main guy. I suspect that this could never have passed as a real-life story! Every single person I came across in the novel seemed to be naive in some way or the other. In fact, I feel, this entire plot works out on the naivity and foolishness of everybody involved.But what really got my goat was the character of Joanna's best friend, Alicia Risingham. Her role, seemed to be, much like the role of the jesters and fools in Shakepeare's plays. Outwardly light-hearted and full of fun, it is she who disects Richard's character bit by bit - but she herself is as uninteresting as the above mentioned cardboard. This would perhaps be because of how she was grieving for her dead uncle one day and the very next had completely forgotten her own grief as her friend gets married. No. She forgets on the same day she realises, actually. As for the men of the Black Arrow, at the beginning one thinks they are going to play a major part in the plot, but they are pushed deep into the woods whence they came from and reappear piece-meal, at the end. This last is a pity, especially as they sound as interesting as Robin Hood and his merry men. If anything, I suspected that they were perhaps the same...or they were used as a model by Stevenson. The language, as I have mentioned before, was very contrived. More so when there was dialogue as Stevenson tries to imitate a language and style he could only have read from books of that era. While this particular form would not seem odd, for instance, in Chaucer's works, it was very, very odd and detracted from the story in this book. I suppose as the first is based in a contemporary world, and therefore well known, the language cannot be contrived, while in the latter case it just wasn't the same through lack of living it. Stevenson's descriptions were good, but the dialogue simply gave me a headache (perhaps this explains the headaches I've been having these past three days??).And speaking of descriptions, there is this one phrase that has stayed with me:"So they ran on, holding each other by both hands, exchanging smiles and lovely looks, and melting minutes into seconds..."The Black Arrow is thus sprinkled with few pretty phrases like that, and I will admit to being reminded of the swashbuckling movies of old. It is a very fast-paced story, albeit it ends in a dreadful hurry in the end. No. It definitely made a bare impression.… (more)
LibraryThing member leslie.98
Adventure and romance during the War of the Roses! This is the tale of a young man, Richard Shelton, who, while helping a boy escape captivity, discovers his guardian Sir Daniel had murdered his father in order to seize his property. He then finds out the boy is actually a girl! Sir Daniel wants to sell her marriage but Dick is determined to marry her himself... Add to that battles between Lancasterians and Yorkists ending with Dick being knighted by none other than Richard, Duke of Gloucester.

One minor annoyance is that Stevenson wrote the dialogue in language appropriate to 1460; some word usage is strange to the modern reader {For example, using "an" to mean "if" and "gossip" to mean "friend"}.… (more)
LibraryThing member wealhtheowwylfing
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.… (more)
LibraryThing member MizPurplest
A bit like Robin Hood, but not as excitingly outcast, I enjoyed this book, but parts of it annoyed me. There were some character inconsistencies that I had trouble getting past, and some of the characters were really, really flat. Also, there are many, many historical references that seemed like they just went nowhere. All in all, though, a quick, entertaining read.… (more)
LibraryThing member Gmomaj
Loved this book when I read in high school, disappointed when I realized it was a Dramation and not the actual book.
LibraryThing member walterhistory
Another wonderful tale by the British author R.L. Stevenson who excelled in producing historical novels like Kidnapped. In this work, he weaves the tale of a Richard Shelton & his quest for justice during the time of the Wars of the Roses. In the midst of this tale, a black arrow strikes its intended victims released by another whose quest for revenge gets Shelton into trouble. All in all, a tale with twists & turns keeps one awake wondering who done it & will Shelton get his girl?… (more)
LibraryThing member dbsovereign
"...and how a thing once done is not to be changed or remedied by any penitence"...true words from RLS, sadly maligned by the woolfs...




(307 ratings; 3.6)
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