Buchan of the Month: Introducing The Path of the King by John Buchan

buchan of the month 2019 poster

20190305_134701-1The Path of the King is the third book in my John Buchan reading project, Buchan of the Month 2019.   You can find out more about the project and the books I read in 2018 here, and view my reading list for 2019 here. What follows is an introduction to The Path of the King.  It is also an excuse to show the lovely dedication in the front of my Nelson edition of the book (without dust jacket unfortunately).  I will be posting my review of the book later in the month.

The Path of the KingThe Path of the King was published in the UK in March 1921 by Hodder & Stoughton and in the United States on 15th June 1921 by George H. Doran, Buchan’s American publisher.  It also appeared in periodical form in Outward Bound magazine from October 1920 to October 1921 and in Adventure magazine from February to March the same year.

elsfield-manorIt was the first historical novel Buchan wrote at Elsfield Manor, the country house in Oxfordshire he had purchased in 1919 and which became the family home.  So devoted to the place was he that, on his death in Canada in 1940, his ashes were brought home to be buried in Elsfield churchyard.  (You can find out more information about Elsfield and the Buchan family’s life there here.)

Kate Macdonald describes The Path of the King as ‘a connected sequence of short stories’ and notes that Buchan and his wife, Susan, worked closely together on them.  Two stories from the book were later dramatised by Susan Buchan.  ‘The Maid’ was published in 1933 under the title, The Vision at the Inn: A Play in One Act and ‘The Wife of Flanders’ was published in The Bookman in 1934.

Buchan’s first biographer, Janet Adam Smith, describes The Path of the King  as historical fantasy inspired by his notion that ‘no man knows his ancestry and that king’s blood may lie dormant for centuries until the appointed time‘.  Beginning with a Viking’s son lost in a raid, the book traces the line of descent through the centuries to Abraham Lincoln with a golden ring being the outward symbol of the line of succession.   Kate Macdonald finds the first two stories ‘highly derivative’ but regards the third tale (the previously mentioned ‘Wife of Flanders’) as excellent.  David Daniell is more enthusiastic describing the narratives as ‘fresh and good’ and noting that the “feel” of many different atmospheres is well done.

The Path of the King was not a great commercial success.  Janet Adam Smith reports that it sold less than 10,000 copies in its first year and combined sales (for the Hodder & Stoughton and Nelson editions) had reached only 75,000 by 1960.    Compare that to the 355,000 copies that The Thirty-Nine Steps had sold by the same date.


David Daniell, The Interpreter’s House: A Critical Assessment of the Work of John Buchan (Nelson, 1975)
Kate Macdonald, John Buchan: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction (McFarland, 2009)
Janet Adam Smith, John Buchan: A Biography (OUP, 1985 [1965])
Kenneth Hillier and Michael Ross, The First Editions of John Buchan: A Collector’s Illustrated Biography (Avonworld, 2008)

buchan of the month 2019


Buchan of the Month/Book Review: Salute to Adventurers by John Buchan

buchan of the month 2019 poster

20190202_150326About the Book

Andrew Garvald is a young Scottish merchant who has bravely come to make his fortune in a newly colonised America. Outlawed from Virginian society for opposing the London traders’ monopoly, his friends are Red Ringan, a pirate and gentleman adventurer and Shalah, an exiled Indian prince. When Garvald is faced with a deadly foe, the stakes are high – the love of a beautiful lady and the very existence of Virginia.

Format: Hardcover (380 pp.)    Publisher: Thomas Nelson & Son
Published: 1915      Genre: Fiction, Adventure

Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk  ǀ  Amazon.com
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find Salute to Adventurers on Goodreads

My Review

Salute to Adventurers is the second book in my Buchan of the Month reading project for 2019.  You can find out more about the project and my reading list for 2019 here.  You can also read my spoiler-free introduction to Salute to Adventurers here.

It was chance that made me select Salute to Adventurers as my Buchan of the Month book to follow Prester John, which I read and reviewed last month. Once I started reading it, I began to appreciate the similarities between the two novels although Salute to Adventurers is more than merely Prester John transposed from South Africa to the American state of Virginia.

However, like Prester John, Salute to Adventurers is an adventure story featuring a young hero, Andrew Garvald, who travels from his native Scotland to make his fortune abroad. Once there, he gets caught up in attempts to foil an uprising of the native Indians roused to uncharacteristic action by an inspirational but misguided (rather than malevolent as in Prester John) leader.   Certainly, Andrew Garvald’s adversary lacks the powerful characterisation of John Laputa in Prester John.

Like David Crawfurd in Prester John, John Buchan endows his hero with a young person’s sense of adventure, seemingly tireless energy and just a little recklessness.  There are exciting action scenes, perilous treks across wild country, narrow escapes, some remarkable coincidences (or are they fate?) and a final confrontation with the native Indians involved in the uprising.  As you would expect from Buchan, there are some glorious descriptions of the scenery, more remarkable for the fact that the author had never crossed the Atlantic at the time of writing the book.

Buchan also introduces some love interest in the shape of a young woman, Elspeth Blair, whom Andrew first encounters in Scotland in curious circumstances.  The lady in question conforms to many of the typical features of a Buchan heroine: she’s slim, beautiful, possesses a lovely singing voice and is a skilled horsewoman.  Buchan also provides his hero with a rival for Elspeth’s affections who eventually becomes an unexpected ally.

Themes that occur frequently in many of Buchan’s book are present in Salute to Adventurers:  fortitude, duty, sacrifice. Those who have followed my previous reviews of John Buchan books will know that an influential text for Buchan was The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan.  They may not be surprised to learn then that, like some of Christian’s fellow travellers in The Pilgrim Progress, not all of Andrew’s comrades make it to the end of the journey unscathed.

In my review of Prester John,  I admitted I found the racial stereotyping, colonialism and outdated paternalism that pervaded that book problematic.  In Salute to Adventurers there is still an element of the white man representing civilization and the native people representing savagery but I felt it was less marked.  One reason for this is the positive characterisation of the Native American guide, Shalah, who is shown not only to possess admirable tracking skills but who plays a key role in safeguarding Andrew and his comrades.  He also acts as an advocate for peace amongst his people.

Salute to Adventurers is one of the few John Buchan books I’ve not read before and I found it an entertaining, well-written adventure story that pays homage to the pioneer spirit.  Next month’s Buchan of the Month is The Path of the King. Look out for my spoiler free introduction to the book next week and my review towards the end of March.

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In three words: Adventure, action, spirited

Try something similar:  Prester John by John Buchan (read my review here)

John BuchanAbout the Author

John Buchan (1875 – 1940) was an author, poet, lawyer, publisher, journalist, war correspondent, Member of Parliament, University Chancellor, keen angler and family man.  He was ennobled and, as Lord Tweedsmuir, became Governor-General of Canada.  In this role, he signed Canada’s entry into the Second World War.   Nowadays he is probably best known – maybe only known – as the author of The Thirty-Nine Steps.  However, in his lifetime he published over 100 books: fiction, poetry, short stories, biographies, memoirs and history.

You can find out more about John Buchan, his life and literary output by visiting The John Buchan Society website.

buchan of the month 2019