HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Lion of The North: A Tale of the Times of Gustavus Adolphus
Author: G. A. Henty
Publisher: Preston-Speed Publications, republished in 2000
ISBN-13: 978-1887159425 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1887159428 (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-1887159432 (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 1887159436 (Paperback)
Related website: http://www.prestonspeed.com (publisher)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 9 and up
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Henty, G. A. The Lion of The North: A Tale of the Times of Gustavus Adolphus (originally published in 1886 as The Lion of the North: A Tale of Gustavus Adolphus and the Wars of Religion; republished in 2000 by Preston-Speed Publications, 51 Ridge Road, Mill Hall, PA 17751), The Thirty Years’ War, lasting from 1618 to 1648 and also known as the Wars of Religion, was principally fought in Central Europe between the Protestant princes of northern Germany, who basically just wanted the freedom of religion to worship as they chose, and the Catholic armies of the Holy Roman Empire, centered by then in Vienna, Austria, who wished to reimpose by force Roman Catholicism on the entire German-speaking population. Of course, there were other factors, but this was the main reason. The Protestants appealed for help to the chivalrous King of Sweden, Gustavus II Adolphus, a Lutheran known as “The Lion of the North,” while the Catholics, under Ferdinand II of the House of Hapsburg, Holy Roman Emperor, Ruler of Bohemia, and King of Hungary, were led by two primary generals, Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly, and, after his death, Duke Albrecht Wenzel Eusebius von Wallenstein of Friedland and Mecklenburg.
In The Lion of the North, which takes place beginning around 1630, Henty gives the history of the first part of the Thirty Years’ War. Even though the United Kingdom of England and Scotland was officially neutral, Gustavus Adolphus’s army contained many Englishmen and large numbers of Scotsmen as soldiers of fortune, and among these was the hero of the story. Sixteen-year-old Scottish orphan Malcolm Graham joins his uncle and guardian, Nigel Graham, to fight with the Swedish army in Europe. Like all typical Henty lads, Malcolm exhibits great honesty, courage, and initiative as he experiences many harrowing and valiant adventures in which he is captured and wounded more than once. And as always, he finds that one special young lady. But after the gallant King is slain during the Battle of Lutzen, what will Malcolm do? The book has been called a “classic portrayal of a lad that had great morals trying to prove himself,” and it has been said that “Malcolm follows the usual Henty pattern of being very smart, tough, and of good character, qualities that enable him to surmount all difficulties.”
The “boy’s adventure books” by George Alfred Henty, who wrote approximately 144 tales, were somewhat unfashionable for a number of years but have been brought back to light largely through the demand by and efforts of homeschoolers. These fast-paced, rousing stories show the importance of good moral traits without being “in-your-face.” They also give an excellent grasp on the historical era in which they take place. The period of the Thirty Years’ War had its importance, which has extended to the present day, as it established religious freedom in Germany. There is so much history even though some of the characters are fictional, and in this one we get to meet the real leaders of the Scottish Brigade, Mackay, Hepburn, and Munro, who became heroes destined for greatness, in addition to Swedish and German commanders. We listened to an audiobook version that was thoughtfully and gently abridged by our friend Jim Weiss. Henty wrote another book set a little later in the Thirty Years’ War, Won by the Sword, which also features a young orphaned Scotsman named Hector Campbell.