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Warrior Scarlet

by Rosemary Sutcliff
207 pages, Historical Fiction
Reviewed by Jeanne

A skillfully written story with some content to be aware of.

Plot

In order to prove himself a man, take his place within the Men’s Side of his village, and wear the warrior’s scarlet cloak, young Drem must singlehandedly kill a wolf. If he cannot accomplish this feat with a withered spear arm, he will be exiled from the tribe and sent to live with the hated “Half People”.

Morality

Morality doesn’t play a very prominent role in the story, but neither is there a prolific amount of immorality. Drem is scorned because he has a withered arm, but at the same time a man by the name of Talore willingly teaches him how to throw a spear with his left arm.

Spiritual Content

There is the presence of Midir, the village priest, and a reference to the forest gods (and other gods as well). Also, a sacred offering is mentioned.

Violence

In addition to the story surrounding Drem’s attempt to kill a wolf, he is also beaten by his brother for running away and there is a brawl when Drem first joins the Boy’s House (where young warriors are trained). Wolves attack a herd of sheep. There are other light references to violence, but nothing is graphic.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Mead and wine are consumed in parts throughout the tale as a critical part of every meal. There is no drunkenness.

Sexual Content

A trader says he sold a woman for an iron knife, saying that he was not yet tired of her. He also left a woman with his child in the village carelessly, and for both actions is portrayed as a cruel man. In one edition of the book (Sunburst: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux) the sketchy illustrations show one young girl without a shirt. There is nothing graphic about the illustration, however.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

None.

Conclusion

Sutcliff writes with a superior skill, drawing to life the Bronze Age and the people who lived in the wild lands of Britain at the time. Subtle plot twists leave the reader always guessing until the very end, where she wraps up the narrative admirably. From her vivid descriptions of the land to the intimacy she introduces between the characters and the reader, Sutcliff weaves an intricate tale well worth reading.

Fun Score: 4.5
Values Score: 3
Written for Age: 11-12

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