Henty’s protagonist does, in true Henty style, save the lives of an inordinate number of people. How so many characters manage to throw themselves in harms way is wonder enough, but that Frank is always on hand to save them is a remarkable providence.

After a difficult start in life, Frank finds himself as an assistant to a highly respected naturalist on a collection journey through Africa. While there he becomes involved in the Ashanti wars, and all sorts of dramas ensue.

Although we are fine to tolerate a certain amount of war in a story, in particular one which clearly labels itself as such, the descriptions of manoeuvres became a wincy bit tiresome, and I confess to glossing over a few.

Chapter 12, A Negro’s Story, is very interesting, though a challenge to read aloud, being written in the vernacular. It gives the perspective of one man who aided others through the underground railroad, and made it back to Africa after escaping. However, the blatant racism expressed throughout the book, a characteristic of the time of writing, is very confronting and required much editing during our reading aloud.

I also found this particular story to be more graphically violent than the others we have read so far, with a lot of human sacrifice and descriptions of brutality that were a trifle too gory to add anything to the appreciation of the story.

While we did find we cared enough about Frank’s fate to pursue the book to its conclusion, it was with a sigh of relief that we turned the final page. This was not a roaring success as a real aloud, and I would hesitate to give it to a younger child without the benefit of discussing some of the themes presented. This one’s for older, confirmed Henty fans only.

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