HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Won by the Sword: A Tale of the Thirty Years War
Author: G. A. Henty
Illustrator: Charles M. Sheldon
Publisher: Robinson Books, republished in 2002
ISBN-13: 978-1590871959 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 1590871952 Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-1590871942 Paperback
ISBN-10: 1590871944 Paperback
Related website: http://www.robinsonbooks.org (publisher)
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level:
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Henty, G. A. Won by the Sword: A Tale of the Thirty Years War (originally published in; republished in 2002 by Robinson Books, a division of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, 2251 Dick George Rd., Cave Junction, OR 97523) . It is October, 1639, during the Thirty Years War, and fifteen year old Hector Campbell is a young Scottish orphan whose mother had died when he was small and whose father was a soldier who had been killed at the siege of LaRochelle fighting for the French. As a result, his father’s regiment, stationed near Paris, had taken him in and was caring for him. One day a French general, Viscount Turenne, saw him engaged in a mock battle with his friends, is struck by his leadership qualities, and invites him to serve on his staff. Over the next few years, Hector proves himself in battle after battle, is awarded a valuable French estate, and along the way rescues from a mob the widow of a French nobleman who had also been killed in battle. The woman has a beautiful daughter (hint: romantic element introduced).
Hector even saves Cardinal Mazarin, the French minister of state, from an assassination attempt of some French noblemen led by the Duc de Beaufort who oppose Mazarin’s rule. However, the Cardinal’s enemies eventually find out who it was that foiled their plot, and the chase is on. Will Hector be able to escape France in time, or will he be hunted down and end up losing his life for his good deed? George Alfred Henty (1832–1902), considered a Victorian literary phenomenon, was a prolific English novelist and a special correspondent who was dubbed the “Prince of Storytellers” and “The Boy’s Own Historian.” As is the case with his other historical novels, the factual information about the Thirty Years War in which Henty’s fictional account of Hector has been set is painstakingly accurate. However, one critic called the story unbelievable and ludicrous because a general riding along stops to talk to a boy playing soldier and recruits him to his staff, then the boy proceeds to win the war by himself with only the aide of his servant. First of all, stranger things have actually happened. Second, while Hector certainly played an important role in the war, he did not win the war all by himself with only the aid of his servant.
Through the years, I have heard two main objections to Henty’s books by some believers. One is that most of them are about war. Of course, the history of the world is the history of war. I do not believe that Henty glorifies war, but I can understand how genuine pacifists would not like his stories. I am not among that number. The second is that they are not sufficiently Christian enough. What that usually means is that Henty’s boys do not share the gospel message of salvation to everyone the meet and lead folks to accept Christ as their personal Savior. However, a book can be based upon and generally present a Biblical worldview without necessarily dealing with the specific subject of what to do to be saved. If one desires exciting historical fiction suitable for young people, with no bad language (in Won by the Sword, a Scottish sergeant exclaims “Gude Lord” on one occasion) and no sexuality, Henty always delivers.