Ivanhoe is a story of medieval England, where King Richard has been captured in a foreign land, and his brother, the mean-spirited and greedy Prince John, is poorly running the kingdom, which is abound with brigands and cartels, plotting to take the crown himself. The lovely Rowena, under the care of her ward Cedric, waits for Ivanhoe, her protector, to return from the Crusades. At the beginning of the story, a tournament is held and mysterious knights and men participate. As the story continues, the yeoman of the forests join forces with those against Prince John and his corruption, and damsel-in-distress and chivalry become full blown.
Although I really liked Ivanhoe, I did not like the overt Jewish racism that pervaded the story, so that takes a star away.
Rebecca is truly the most captivating character in the book. She is fiercely independent, skillful, and has intelligence. She is captured twice and remains steadfast the whole time. Yet, what does Scott leave her at the end? Nothing, except a strong desire to flee England and leave behind all of the misery. After everything she doesn't even get the man!
Rowena and Ivanhoe are boring. The titular character involves himself little, although he does swing his sword a few times and is convalesced by Rebecca. Rowena is the typical female stereotype, somewhat dimwitted, but beautiful enough she doesn't have to try. I thought it was amusing when she suggested to Rebecca that England has so much to offer, and she should stay, because surely Richard would protect her. Hello Rowena? Where you present at all during this novel? When almost every single Norman and Saxon had nothing but disparaging marks against Rebecca, Isaac, and the whole Jewish race? And the part when Rebecca was going to be burned at the stake? The racism was so strong in this book, I wouldn't be surprised if Scott was very racist himself. I understand portraying the views of the time, but it was overkill.
The scenes with the Friar, Locksley, Gurth, Wamba, and King Richard, out in the forest with the yeomen were the best, and most exciting. I would have been happy to have stayed with these characters the whole time. Scott is masterful in description and dialogue, and I enjoyed all his ramblings, although Front-de-Boeuf did get long-winded. I thought the book started off very strong with the tournament, and then ebbed out of energy to Rebecca's trial. I had wished there had been a glorious battle at the end, but alas, the fight was about two paragraphs.