After waiting for each boy to finish their book and then switch to read the other book, I finally get my chance. I can see why my sons were so enthusiastic about these two titles!
Definitely written in the spirit of R.M. Ballantyne, The Boy Colonel jumps right into the heat of action. A melee to be precise! Though not for young children, the imagery is vivid and adventure is plentiful!
"A narrow river of solid ice threaded its way through the center of the scene, its surface swept bare of snow by the swirling winds. Each bank was lined by a deep drift - the only barrier that the bare landscape presented against a maelstrom of bullets. Two lines of men faced each other, guns blazing. The farthest was a motley crowd, clothed in dirty blues and browns, with high fur caps on their heads. Within twenty yards lay their mortal enemies, arrayed in blue-gray pants and scarlet pelisses, many of which were dyed darker by splotches of blood."
Meet mysterious and secretive Captain Nobody, young commander of the 42nd stationed in Siberia to fight the Cossacks.
"It works every time." The lieutenant colonel drew his sword and placed himself beside his colonel. "Only a boy's ingenuity could have thought of that tactic!"
The colonel paused for a moment, one boot buried deep in the snow, the other resting upon the frozen river's treacherous surface.
"There is a reason they call me the 'boy Colonel'." He scanned the advancing line. The advance was slowing, the soldiers slipping and sliding on the ice. The Cossacks must not have time to reload. "A sure foot and a swift stride!" he shouted. "For God and country!"
Captain Nobody along with a memorable, international crew, travel to England as a result of a "crooked" Superior's scheme and frequent meddling.
"Mud splashed in all directions, but most of it landed on the indignant Jacques.After surviving attacks, being marooned and even betrothed, Nobody manages to keep his true identity a secret. In the end, he chooses to fight God's war over man's, to hold onto honor and fight to the death for what is truly important.
"You boef!" he spluttered at O'Malley, frantically pulling out a clean handkerchief. "Vhy can you not look at zhe road? You are a clumsy, ill-mannered, barbarian boeuf!"
Edmund was holding his stomach in laughter. Nobody smiled and gave a hand to the grimy reporter. The Irishman jumped to his feet and glowered at Jacques.
"It's not me fault that they had to be puttin' rubbish in the road." He smeared the mud on his face with an equally soiled sleeve. "Now quit your jabberin' and tell me what a 'boof' is before I dunk ye in this puddle."
Jacques executed a neat pirouette and took refuge on the other side of Nobody. "It is not my fault zhat you do not know French. I may call you vhatever I vish." He placed his hands on his hips and looked defiantly at his tall friend."
"She raised her sad eyes to his, and in that instant he saw her soul, as it were, open before him, bleeding, rejected, wanting love, and yet frighted to ask. Her childhood, frowned upon by her guardian for her pure beliefs, and separated from childhood companions for the same reason, so suddenly broken by what she thought was a proposal of marriage, bliss for a season and then the pained realization that she was not loved, the feeling of betrayal and rejection only deepened. He mid was made up. He would not ask a girl to follow him to the death without sharing his deepest secret with her -- the secret of his identity."
Brothers at Arms is a chivalrous tale of twin brothers who couldn't be more different. There's Chester who's strong, athletic, well versed in weapons and then there's Lawrence (Law), educated, refined and responsible. Think of them as the old fashioned version of the odd couple.
These boys have grown up in a rather strange household. Their mother prefers to socialize and their aloof, absentminded father views them as experiments. When Chester decides to join the army for adventure, their father commissions Lawrence to bring him back. Law vows to do whatever it takes to bring his brother home. Even if it means joining the army AND becoming his brother's servant!
After a ballroom gala, the twins come to the aid of a man named Garcia who is being attacked. Law is injured, so Garcia brings them back to his house for treatment. There they meet Garcia's sister-in-law the beautiful Pacarina.
Returning the next night, the twins foil a plot to kidnap Pacarina. Once Garcia sees their bravery, he asks them to become his bodyguards while traveling to Peru for safety. Of course Chester agrees and Law is forced to tag along.
On the voyage to Peru, Law receives a mysterious note threatening him to leave Garcia in Peru. First the brothers are attacked and taken captive on a pirate ship, marooned and then miraculously catch up with Garcia and his crew.
"It would have been a tale for the history-books." Chester paused to wipe his forehead. "Two Englishmen defend their prison against a crew-full of bloodthirsty blackguards. The dead pile high, sprinkled with the blood of the faithful defenders. The illustration would be a black background with two swirly white shapes slashing at a crowd of swarthy natives."
"History will only mention you if I write it, Chester. Remember, the pen is mightier than the sword."
"Quite likely, but the pistol has them both beat."
The story takes a sinister turn as the hunt for Inca gold is revealed. Pacarina knows the secret location of this ancient treasure and Garcia and his accomplice are intent on finding out.
"I took a few moments for reflection as our mules were brought back to us. The picture was exotic, but unwanted. I was traipsing into the mountains of Peru with a caravan of odoriferous mules and half-civilized Indians, bound by my duty to accompany Chester, Who had bound himself to protect a pretty Spanish girl with a secret of blood and gold. And someone wanted that secret."Along the way, the twins come to be brotherly companions to Pacarina not only to guard her secret but in her pursuit of Jesus.
"To change someone's mind, you must first make them question their fundamental beliefs. If they continue to question these, and there are no satisfactory answers, then they will change their minds, unless God allows them to continue in irrational faith. It was my duty to make her ask questions. The rest was in far more capable Hands than mine. Strange how life is. I was working to remove the one insurmountable barrier blocking a serious connection between Chester and Pacarina."Slowly the brothers realize that they need each other with each brother putting themselves in a place of sacrifice to the other as the dangerous hunt for the treasure escalates. Through an ingenious plan, all three manage to escape. Finally the brothers become brothers IN arms.
OUR THOUGHTS:After the three of us read each book, we all came to the same conclusions. Both books are awesome and full of adventure. They aren't a simple read having vivid imagery and rich text. We all found it intriguing that each book takes place in the 1830's.
The Boy Colonel was more war oriented, with adventures inside of adventures. It did have more of an "outside looking in" feel to it.
Brothers in Arms had us all laughing. The exchanges between the brothers were easy for my boys to relate to. The story was inviting and you felt a part of their adventure.
These were both great, moral, Christian tales. This family is hoping there are more to come!
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I received a copy of both books free of charge in exchange for an honest review