In the coming-of-age historical novel The King’s Broad Arrow, a young man decides what he thinks is worth fighting for.
In Kathryn Goodwin Tone’s historical novel The King’s Broad Arrow, a young man searches for his place in the world during wartime.
In the era of the Revolutionary War, Fourteen-year-old Sam helps to run his family’s mill; he spends long summer days in the pond with best friend, Eamon. He is aware of tensions between the colonials and the British, but they feel far away. But when Sam is caught burning a tree that’s marked for the king’s ships, he is taken aboard a British vessel and imprisoned in a cell with Gerard, a French prisoner. There, Sam learns what is at stake in the war.
The story is rich with historical characters. George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Paine make appearances, and Sam’s interactions with them are used to imagine their motivations as they act. Sam learns about the value of ideas and the importance of words alongside action. In the process, he grows from a contented child into a young man who understands the differences that individuals can make. He comes to the conclusion that bravery is not the absence of fear, but acting despite one’s fear.
The book moves with speed through its historical events, though it also includes periods of reflection, as with Gerard and Sam’s discussions of philosophy. Sam’s experiences wend important moments into the plot, as when he hears an account of Paul Revere’s midnight ride, when he helps Thomas Paine to print a pamphlet to inspire the weary army, and when he listens as Paine reflects on the sentiments of the Declaration of Independence, declaring them antithetical to slavery.
Though the book addresses substantial topics in an age-appropriate manner, it is also clear about the hard parts of growing up. Sam wrestles with questions of mortality when he witnesses a battle at Trenton; he ponders loyalty while deciding whether or not he’ll fight with George Washington. He comes to understand that responsibility is an honor, not a burden, and is determined to deliver on a promise made to Gerard. Such determination is solidified by the book’s ending, which pushes Sam toward future adventures in the pursuit of freedom.
In the coming-of-age historical novel The King’s Broad Arrow, a young man decides what he thinks is worth fighting for, and determines what freedom truly means.
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