Kidnapped is a charming adventure novel. It is set in Scotland a few years after the rebellion of Bonnie Prince Charlie. The book neatly divides into two parts. The first part concerns the orphaned David Balfour coming to collect his inheritance from his treacherous uncle Ebeneezer and his subsequent kidnapping. The second involves Balfour's flight across the Scottish Highlands.
Stevenson himself was a Scot and the novel is a virtual tour of Scotland. My edition, did not have a map, which would have been an aid to the book. The descriptions of the Scottish landscape and various Scottish characters are affectionately done. In particular, the character of Alan Breck Stewart, who arrives on the scene in one of the most unlikely ways in all of fiction, is a blatant but thoroughly charming stereotype.
The book, if it was written today, would be considered a YA adventure novel for boys. Essentially, it is an adventure novel with very little to say and is very much in the style of Stevenson's more famous work, Treasure Island. It is not quite as good as that work, but it still shows all the strengths of Stevenson's writing. To my mind, Stevenson is an underrated writer. His books are pulpy, but lovely and he is superior to similar writers such as Haggard or Hope.
Stevenson was admired by some of my favorite writers,including Borges, Hemingway and Nabakov. Because literary types often have difficulty telling quality pulp fiction, he has not been given his due. But he ranks amongst the greatest writers of pulp fiction. One of the things that I like about Stevenson, is that he plays with moral ambiguities. For instance, the evil uncle does have scruples and Stewart indulges in quite a bit of questionable behaviour. As such there, is more sophistication here than there appears to be at first glance. Stevenson's ability to draw a character that is vivid with very little work is impressive as always.
The book is well worth reading and should appeal to all. I do think that both Treasure Island and Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde are better, but Kidnapped is light and a pleasure to read. Unjustly neglected.