Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Book recomendations: Adventure

[Note: This is the first in a new series. Each time I do one of these posts I'll recommend some books in a specific category and then (after this time) I'll post a few reader recommendations from the last post. Some books span several categories so "A Tale of Two Cities" would appear in Classics rather than Historical (which it technically is).]

Who doesn't love a good adventure book? The occasional sword-fight, running away to sea, traveling to new places--they're exciting. They make us want to jump up and do something big. Or maybe they're a way for us to do something big without ever leaving the comfort of our favorite armchair. At any rate:

A few adventure books

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. Four siblings (John, Susan, Roger, and Titty) camp on an island in the English Lake District with their (borrowed) boat, the "Swallow". Unfortunately, the island already belongs to the piratical Amazon sisters, Nancy and Peggy Blackett. Naturally, war is declared! The first in a long series of wonderful children's books.

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson. David Balfour, nephew of the Laird of Shaws, goes to visit his uncle for the first time. Upon arriving, he finds the house in ruins and his uncle a miser. And he almost falls to his death in a very mysterious fashion. That's only the beginning!

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott. Ivanhoe is the disinherited son of a Saxon Lord, disinherited because he chose to follow the Norman Richard the Lionheart on a crusade. Now he has returned home to find his love, Lady Rowena, promised to another. Warning: the language in this one can be difficult since Scott, an eighteenth-century writer, was attempting to write in the style of several hundred years before.

Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff. Marcus' father disappeared when he was very young, lost with his legion in the wilds of Britain. Now Marcus is grown up and has himself been sent to Britain. He vows to find the truth of what happened to his father and the lost legion.

The Squire's Tale by Gerald Morris. The first book in a series of re-tellings of the Arthur stories. Terence is a foundling living with a holy hermit in the woods when one day he encounters Gawain, who hopes to be one of Arthur's knights. Gawain takes him on as a squire and together they set off for Arthur's court where love, adventure, trials, and magic await them.

Other books by the same authors
Arthur Ransome
Racundra's First Cruise
The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship
Peter Duck
Missee Lee
Coot Club

Robert Louis Stevenson
David Balfour
The Black Arrow
Treasure Island

Rosemary Sutcliff
The Lantern Bearers (This is an amazing book)
The Mark of the Horse Lords
Blood Feud

Gerald Morris
The Squire, His Knight, and His Lady
The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf
The Lioness and Her Knight
(for more on Gerald Morris see here)

Reader Recommendations
Do you have a recommendation for an adventure book? Leave it in the comments! Next time I'll put up a few of them.


Sam September 18, 2008 at 4:47 PM  

I LOVE "Treasure Island" is the best! :D
"Five Children and It" is a wonderful adventure book!! "The Scarlet Pimpernal" is one of my top favorite adventures! "Nightbirds on Nantucket" is also VERY awesome! A must read! :D

Elizabeth September 19, 2008 at 3:53 AM  

Great post! :)

I love (most of) Arthur Ransome's "Swallows and Amazons" books. "Swallows and Amazons" is followed by "Winter Holiday" - it includes Swallows, Amazons AND Dick and Dot ... plus Uncle Jim/Captain Flint. If you like "Swallowdale," you'll DEFINITELY like "Winter Holiday." "The Coot Club" is followed by "The Big Six" - same children, same place, different adventure. "We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea" is great, too. It features John, Susan, Titty and Roger only and is more "technical" than the other books, concerning the practical details of sailing a "real" boat. It's also more serious, in some ways - the children have a "real" adventure and John and Susan have to be mature and sensible. I love it! But perhaps "Great Northern" is best - set on a boat, on the coast and around the islands of Scotland, it includes Swallows, Amazons, Ds AND Uncle Jim/Captain Flint. Fun ...

Adventure books in general ... my absolute favourites are six books by Cynthia Harnet. Actually, the books are written for "children," but the characters are well-drawn and the plots are mature and intricate ... one of the things I love about these books is that the plot always hinges on something surprising, but obvious when you know ... and I always forget that detail, so each reading of the books is exciting and surprising all over again. Personally, I think anyone who likes Rosemary Sutcliff will like Cynthia Harnett ...

Her books are:

Ring Out Bow Bells
The Writing on the Hearth
The Load of Unicorn
The Wool Pack

Stars of Fortune

The Great House

The first four books are set in the 1400s and span four generations of children, connected by "minor" characters who might be young in one book and old in another or something. "Ring Out Bow Bells" is set in the days of Henry V, before the Wars of the Roses. The Wool Pack is set in the days of Henry VII, after the days of the Wars of the Roses. I don't think a knowledge of English history is required to enjoy the books, but being familiar with English history, I may take a lot for granted! The books can be read in order or out of order or on their own. "The Wool Pack" is least political-history-dependent and my personal favourite!

"Stars of Fortune" is actually about some of George Washington's ancestors. The family lives in a small manor house in England in the days of Mary I, close to the house where "The Lady Elizabeth" (the future Queen Elizabeth I) is being held prisoner. It's REALLY exciting!

"The Great House" is set in the 1690s and is about the children of an architect and the adventures they have with the family he's contracted to biuld a new house for ...

Cynthia Harnett's books are out-of-print, but available on Abebooks, for example. "The Wool Pack" was republished within the last ten years and so was "Stars of Fortune" ... which might, indeed, still be in print.

Another (English) historical adventure author is Geoffrey Trease ... "Cue for Treason," set in the 1500s and involving Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth I, is excellent ...

*Ahem!* Forgive me for getting carried away with this comment! I have a weakness for books! :P

MaureenE September 20, 2008 at 12:33 PM  

Sam, I love all the books you mentioned, although I don't think I've read Five Children and It since I was about ten.

Elizabeth, thanks! I just put up a few of the Arthur Ransome books, but we have all of them. Missee Lee happens to be one of my favorites, along with Pigeon Post. And We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea. And...

Your other suggestions sound really fascinating! I'll have to look into them.

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