In the Reign of Terror

In the Reign of Terror, G. A. Henty
(Blackie and Sons, no date), hb., 352 pp.
Ages 7+

This is the first Henty book I ever read myself, and it shaped my positive view of Henty. I have looked forward to being able to read it to my boys, and I was gratified to see they enjoyed it as much as I did when I first read it several years ago. I have commented on some other Henty books here previously and often found myself a bit disappointed, largely because those books failed to live up to this one. In the Reign of Terror is the best Henty book I have read. Unlike With Wolfe in Canada the story flowed well and remained human throughout. It was adventurous and engaging. My boys (ages 11, 9, 7) loved it.

This book provides a good picture of life in the midst of the French Revolution. I wanted my boys to see how this movement differs from the American Revolution- the animosity towards upper class, the revolt against God and enthroning of reason and how that led to unspeakable atrocities in the name of liberty. This book does a good job of that. In that vein it is pretty weighty as the family in the story deals with the execution of most of its members. The violence is not gratuitous but the book is honest.

Harry, the English boy who is the main character, provides a great example of humility, grit, bravery, loyalty, chivalry and perseverance. A French Marquis asked Harry’s father to send over one of his sons to show the Frenchman’s son the hardiness of English boys. There is a great story of Harry rescuing the girls of the family from a wild dog and of Harry and one of the sons on a wolf hunt. Eventually as the revolution continues the characters move to Paris and with the death of the Marquis and his wife, Harry takes on the task of protecting the daughters and leading them to safety in England. The story is told in a very compelling way.

There are many great lessons in the book. There is a good example here not only of masculine bravery but also of feminine bravery and the important support a man draws from a woman who believes in him. This last point is subtle and provided some good foundational conversations with my boys about the importance of a good wife. Choosing a wife is a topic that is far from their minds at the moment, but this story provided an opportunity to plant a few important seeds.

We heartily commend this book.
NOTE: Link at the top is to a more recent reprint edition.

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