Winning His Spurs by Henty is an excellent piece of historical fiction set in England and the Holy Lands at the time of King Richard and the Crusades. Cuthbert is a lad of 15. He occupies a unique place on the lands of the Earl of Eversham since he is half Norman and half Saxon. He is equally at home in the woods with the Saxon foresters or in the castle of the Norman earl. One day Cuthbert witnesses the kidnapping of the Earl's daughter and with the help of the foresters succeeds in rescuing her. When the earl seeks revenge on the neighboring lord, Cuthbert succeeds in finding a secret entrance to the castle making the success of the operation both quick and with minimal injuries. Cuthbert's request when the earl offers him a reward is that the earl take him on as a page when he goes on his next campaign under the king. That opportunity comes quickly as King Richard decides to lead an expedition to recapture Jerusalem. Cuthbert's combination of courage, honesty, fighting skill, leadership and quick thinking earn him the respect of those around him, and he rises quickly from page to knight and finally earl. But then, he returns home to find that Prince John has given his title and lands to another and refuses to uphold the decision of King Richard to make him the king. The earl's daughter is hiding in a nearby convent to avoid marrying the false earl. Cuthbert again exercises great character in patiently waiting for the right time to act openly while at the same time protecting both those he loves and those who follow him.
I've read several Henty books before this one, and I have to say this one is definitely my favorite so far. Cuthbert is truly a remarkable young man possessing the type of character that makes him an excellent role model for young men. The juxtaposition of Cuthbert's character to King Richard's sometimes rash and unrestrained behavior is striking and makes for an excellent topic of conversion. He would also make an excellent contrast against the more modern flawed protagonist found in twentieth century writing. I would consider this one a must read for boys. Some of the other Henty books I would classify as entertaining and informative. This one is also inspiring and thought provoking as well. If your library doesn't have a copy like mine, try this free online version instead.