King Solomon's Mines is a popular novel by the Victorian adventure writer and fabulist, Sir Henry Rider Haggard. It tells of a quest into an unexplored region of Africa by a group of adventurers led by Allan Quatermain in search of the missing brother of one of the party. It is significant as the first English fictional adventure novel set in Africa, and is considered the genesis of the Lost World literary genre.
The book was first published in September 1885 amid considerable fanfare, with billboards and posters around London announcing "The Most Amazing Book Ever Written". It became an immediate best seller. By the late 19th century explorers were uncovering lost civilizations around the world, such as Egypt's Valley of the Kings, and the empire of Assyria. Africa remained largely unexplored and King Solomon's Mines, the first novel of African adventure published in English, captured the public's imagination.
The "King Solomon" of the book's title is the Biblical king renowned both for his wisdom and for his wealth.
Haggard knew Africa well, having penetrated deep within the continent as a 19-year-old during the Anglo-Zulu War and the First Boer War, where he had been impressed by South Africa's vast mineral wealth and the ruins of ancient lost cities being uncovered such as Great Zimbabwe. His original Allan Quatermain character was based in large part on the real-life adventures of Frederick Courtney Selous, the famous British big game hunter and explorer of Colonial Africa. These experiences provided Haggard's background and inspiration for this and many later stories.
An exciting and good book, without being brilliant. It has lots of thrills, chills and excitement, and has an excellent plot. However, I found many descriptions over violent. Consider the following:
Twala's head seemed to spring from his shoulders and then fell and came rolling and bounding along the ground towards Ignosi, stopping just as his feet. For a second the corpse stood upright, the blood sprouting in fountains from the severed arteries; then with a dull crash it fell to the earth.
I find this unnecessarily violent, and there are quite a few descriptions like that. In many of the other books I have read (The Lord of the Rings, Tales of Redwall, The Mistmantle Chronicles, Tales of Karensa etc.) this level of description is nearly always avoided. However, I did still enjoy it, and it was worth reading.
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- Reading Age: 14+
- Reading Aloud Age: 13+
Lots of rather violent descriptions.
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