H. Rider Haggard wrote King Solomon’s Mines in 1885, and not long after, it became one of the top classics in adventure literature. The novel is thought to be one of Haggard’s best works.
The main characters are: Mr. Quatermain, Sir Henry and Captain Good. Mr. Quatermain is an older gentleman, who is thought to be the best elephant hunter in Africa; he is well experienced with the local way of life from the native Africans and even speaks their language. Sir Henry on the other hand is a tall, broad -shouldered man who is thought to be very strong. Although he is an English gentleman, his friends believe he is related to the Scandinavian Vikings, due to his strength and blond beard and hair. Captain Good is a short man with apparently, “the most beautiful white legs ever to have set foot in Africa”. Captain Good is an ex-sailor, and after leaving the navy he soon became acquainted with Sir Henry.
The novel starts with a ship bound for Natal, on which Mr. Quatermain, Captain Good and Sir Henry find themselves. Here Mr. Quatermin befriends both of the other two characters. Mr .Quatermain soon finds out that his two new friends have set out to find Sir Henry’s younger brother, who vanished while seeking out the legend of King Solomon’s treasure, where the mines are well known for their diamonds. By coincidence, Mr. Quatermain has a map to that particular area from a native friend, which is drawn in human blood. The travellers face many dangers, everything from baking deserts, to hostile tribes and an evil ‘wise women,’ who is the only person in the world who holds the secrets to King Solomon’s mines.
The language is basic, yet not to such an extent that the reader loses interest, but more in such a way that every description, which is given and every feeling which the explorers are feeling makes the reader feel like he himself is right there with them. For example:
Presently she stopped and pointed at the brown object seated on the table. Sir Henry looked, and started back with an
exclamation; and no wonder, for there, seated quite naked on the table, the head which Sir Henry’s battle axe had shorn
from the body resting on its knees, was the gaunt corpse of Twala, last king of the Kukuanas.
I found that this language and style made the book far more enjoyable for the reader.
Other novels by the same author included: She, The Tale of Three Lions and The People in the Mist. All of which are apparently highly recommended, due to having yet another brilliant storyline and the same enjoyable language and style.
My own personal opinion of the novel is that it is a brilliant read and that you will never want to stop till you reach the end. Every page brings new surprises and experiences to the characters, making the ending just that bit more interesting. I definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys adventure and history about colonialism in Africa in the late 19th century.