In days of olde when knights were bold and,
This review is from: Ivanhoe (Penguin Popular Classics) (Paperback)
...in the main, sexist and racial and religious bigots, women and anyone not of the Christian faith had a pretty raw deal! Reading this again about forty years after the first time I encountered it these are the strongest impressions with which I am left. Of course, we receive these impressions through the filter of Scott's own presumptions and he is usually quick in drawing favourable distinctions between himself and his own time with regard to the prejudices that form the backbone to the structure of the story and not above being selective or actually manipulating history if it serves this purpose.
Having said all this it still, nevertheless, remains a ripping yarn, basically, of the return of the `prodigal' son or son's stripe, if we include Richard sneaking home through the back door to escape the notice of his clearly nasty younger brother, John with his equally repellent and sycophantic flunkies. The eponymous `hero' doesn't really make his own appearance till a significant way through the narrative and, when he does, we find him a somewhat proud, vainglorious, patronizing but probably, good looking chap who handles a lance and sword well.
It is the women, Rebecca, Rowena and Edith (Athelstane's mom) who come out of all of this with their integrity intact. Of the men, only the fool, Wamba and the serf, Gurth, have any truly noble qualities despite playing distinctly second rate roles in comparison to the kings, knights and unjustly accused outlaw chiefs they risk their lives to aid.
For those who don't mind breaking into the narrative there is a wealth of notes that give richness and clarity to Scott's (only) occasionally mildly baffling prose.