Title: The Outlaw of Torn
Author: Edgar Rice Burroughs
Genre: Pulp Historical Fiction
Rating: 3 of 5
Earlier this month I read Tarzan of the Apes and was thoroughly unimpressed. I decided to give Burroughs another shot in a genre that didn’t lend itself as easily to product-of-its-era casual racism. Judging from the awkwardly drawn musclebound caped rider on the cover I thought this was something in the swords & sorcery genre, but it turned out to be historical(ish) fiction set during the reign of England’s King Henry III.
The plot features a (completely fictional) prince kidnapped at a very young age and raised as an England-hating outlaw by a vengeance-seeking French swordmaster. As you would expect in adventure pulp, there’s very little actual history as the plot revolves around swashbuckling, chivalry, and romance. Basically it was the cheaper, pulpier version of escapist classics like Scott’s Ivanhoe or Stevenson’s The Black Arrow. Given its genre, it was okay…I probably would have really enjoyed it as a young teenager.
One thing that I found interesting/stupid is that Burroughs repeatedly denigrates the era’s obsession with noble birth, but also weaves in the “blood will tell” trope for our noble-born-but-raised-as-an-outlaw hero. I guess it doesn’t pay to think too hard when it comes to pulp…just sit back and enjoy the hokey action if you can.