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The Load of Unicorn

by Cynthia Harnett
231 pages, Historical Fiction
Reviewed by Nienna

Very good read but has a little violent content.

Plot

In 1482 a young boy named Benedict lives in his father and older half-brothers' scrivener shop in London. After overhearing a conversation about seemingly harmless paper, Bendy finds himself caught up in the rivalry between his prejudiced half-brothers and the kind William Caxter, bringer of printing to England. Desiring to help the printer, but fearing the wrath of his half-brothers and that retribution may fall on his friend, Bendy makes difficult choices and in the end all comes to right.

Morality

Good. Bendy hates another boy and beats him in a rage, but later sees that as wrong and repents. Though Bendy doesn't mind lying to get out of a scrape, his father is adamant about always telling the truth. The brothers steal and do similar things, but that is shown as wrong. There is a general acceptance of smuggling and such, but any higher crimes are stoutly put down.

Spiritual Content

The characters are Catholic, so there are mentions of God, the saints, the Church, priests, abbots, monks, and all that. The characters pray to the saints, and light candles for people sometimes. Mostly it was done very well so I didn't mind and actually appreciated that aspect of it (except that they prayed to the saints rather than to God).

Violence

Bendy fights with another boy twice and both times the other boy gets badly hurt; Benedict is sorry for it later, though. Bendy is threatened with a beating more than once. He is set upon by robbers and given such a clout upon the head that they fear they killed him. The "horrors" of the War of the Roses are mentioned a few times, with no details. Hanging is referred to, as are the stocks.

Drug and Alcohol Content

It is stated that Bendy became drunk at some point before the story begins, but he is very ashamed of that fact. Wine, ale and other alcoholic drinks are frequently drunk.

Sexual Content

None.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

The word d**n is used a few times; hell and Heaven are mentioned, correctly.

Conclusion

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. Half the story is historical, and the author clarifies which parts those are. The morality was better than it sounds, especially in that it shows how doing wrong really doesn't pay in the long run. Bendy is a very relatable character, the story is interesting and not too far-fetched, and the history fits well into the tale. As soon as I finished reading this I gave it to my 9-year-old brother with no hesitation.

Fun Score: 4.5
Values Score: 4.5
Written for Age: 11-12

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