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Book Review

This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

During the War of the Roses in the 15th century, Richard “Dick” Shelton is a 17-year-old ward of a corrupt knight named Sir Daniel Brackley. Sir Daniel acquires the ward-ship of young heirs like Dick in order to arrange marriages that will make him money.

His loyalties to the two warring armies — Lancaster and York — frequently change based on his personal needs and desires. A rogue group, calling themselves the fellowship of the Black Arrow, sends a note (via a black arrow) that fills Dick with concern about Sir Daniel’s character. It says they plan to kill the knight and some of his men. It also indicates Sir Daniel may have been involved in the death of Dick’s father.

On his way to see Sir Daniel, Dick comes upon a fugitive, and he ends up traveling with this person. The “boy,” who goes by the name John Matcham, is actually a girl named Joanna Sedley. She is fleeing her kidnapper, Sir Daniel. Dick knows none of this. John tries to convince Dick to side with the Black Arrow fellowship, as the two face peril on their journey. When Dick finally learns John is Joanna, he is smitten. Sir Daniel ultimately recaptures Joanna, and the Black Arrow outlaws save Dick.

With the help of the Black Arrow fellowship and the army of York, Dick attempts to rescue Joanna. He even steals a ship called the Good Hope, but the rescue effort by sea fails. Still tracking Sir Daniel, Dick and his outlaws fight another group they discover is led by Sir Foxham, Joanna’s guardian. Foxham says he will allow Joanna to marry Dick and writes letters of recommendation to Richard Crookback, the Duke of Gloucester, on the young man’s behalf.

Dick finds Crookback fighting Lancaster troops and helps Crookback prevail. Crookback makes Dick a commander and eventually knights him. He gives Dick men and horses with which to battle Sir Daniel. Dick rescues Joanna, though he loses many men in the process. Dick also gets away with Joanna’s companion, Alicia Risingham, and the trio reaches safety in Holywood. There, Dick and Joanna are married.

Dick is forced to contend with Sir Daniel on the day of his wedding. The evil knight is trying to flee by sea. As Sir Daniel retreats from Dick, outlaw Ellis Duckworth kills Sir Daniel with a black arrow.

Christian Beliefs

Priests and friars appear often. Some, like Sir Daniel’s follower Sir Oliver Oates, are corrupt. The term “Christian” is used to describe someone or something proper and virtuous. Some characters pray, cross themselves or make other brief spiritual comments in times of difficulty.

Other Belief Systems

Dick and another man briefly discuss white magic and how it would be OK to cast a spell with it because it has nothing to do with the Devil.

Authority Roles

Sir Daniel often switches loyalties in the War of the Roses to suit his own interests. He also uses young orphans, like Joanna and Dick, to make money. Lord Foxham, Joanna’s guardian, joins Dick and the outlaws in an effort to rescue the girl.


The word a-- appears once.

Numerous people die in this tale. Some perish in battle or hand-to-hand combat, while others are assassinated or pierced by blades or arrows.


Joanna kisses Dick when they are reunited.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Alcohol: Alcohol use is common. Men at Sir Daniel’s house drink and gamble. Dick’s ally, Lawless, gets drunk at Sir Daniel’s.

Archaic language: The language in this book is archaic and may be difficult for young children to understand.

The Black Arrow: A Tale of Two Roses is the fictional account of a true conflict that took place in 15th-century England. A few characters, such as Richard Crookback and the Duke of Gloucester, are historical figures.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

10 to 15


Robert Louis Stevenson






Record Label



Originally published by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1888; the reviewed edition was reprinted in 2003 by Signet Classic, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.


On Video

Year Published





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