by Robert Louis Stevenson
Edition: Polygon, paperback
My overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The last chapter of Kidnapped was very nearly a complete, happy ending: Alan Breck was soon to escape to freedom in France, and David Balfour outwitted his selfish uncle and finally came into his inheritance. David's story is far from finished, however; with the Appin Murder trial impending, he feels it his duty to speak on James Stewart's behalf, and it's not an easy mission, especially when he can't even be sure that the most powerful man who could help him--the Lord Advocate--is trustworthy. David's own position, as a witness of the murder, is also precarious. Still only a teenager and overwhelmed by all of this, he strives to work his way through a scheming world, become a gentleman, and win the love of beautiful grey-eyed Catriona Drummond.
My thoughts: Stevenson considered this book to be one of his best, if not his best. I humbly disagree, but I did think it a very good book, and a must-read for anyone who loves Kidnapped.
In the first part of the story, we have David trying hard to be shrewd and grown-up, while at the same time torn between self-interest and working to free an accused (but innocent) man from execution. I think David is more likeable in this book, because, in many ways, the troubles David encounters in Catriona are much worse than those in Kidnapped, and the ways he faces them are (usually) very admirable, especially since he has no one else to look up to for help. I really liked this first half of the book--there was plenty of danger, adventure, and some suspense; and Stevenson's elegant but vivid writing is an excellent example and standard for authors today. I was skeptical about this book, but it turned out to be worthwhile and highly interesting; the scheming characters were very irritating, the Scottish dialogue wonderful as always, and I think my new favourite character was Charles Stewart (coincidentally, Alan Breck's cousin).
Alan Breck fans, prepare to be disappointed. There was very little of him in this book. I expected that, but it really is too bad. In addition, when he is in the book, his character seems to be written only half-heartedly, and he doesn't seem like quite the same Alan that one remembers from Kidnapped.
Now for the reason I gave it just 4 stars: part 2 of the book is less than wonderful. It's like a romance story from a guy's point of view. Of course, I like old-fashioned romance stories, and I like the idea of one being written by a guy from a guy's perspective, but at times it was just too agitated and dramatic for me. Catriona was likeable enough at first, but both she and David got really annoying. It was kind of disappointing, particularly because it had the potential to be poignant and unique. As it was, it turned out to be rather cliche.
The ending is pretty good. Complete? Well, sort of. Actually, I could see many sequels and/or prequels to Kidnapped & Catriona. Why not a whole saga? But first, one would have to acquire Stevenson's confident historical tone, or at least his brilliant Scottish writing style. And that would be very, very difficult. ;)