The Coral Island

by R. M. Ballantyne
184 pages, Historical Fiction
Reviewed by Nienna

Good book, historically very sound, but very violent.


Ralph Rover, the 15-year-old narrator, together with his two friends, 18-year-old Jack who guides the group with his wisdom and strength, and Peterkin who keeps the group lighthearted with his merry activity, is shipwrecked upon a beautiful, uninhabited Polynesian island. In this earthly paradise the lads must learn to survive with only a hatchet and nature while they discover amazing plants, visit penguins, work with savage natives and are captured by bloodthirsty pirates.


While the boys are Christians and act accordingly, the other characters are not, so there is a good deal of very, very wicked things done. It is all shown through Ralph's eyes, though, which view it with horror and repugnance as being exceedingly sinful.

Spiritual Content

The lads are believers in Christ, so God and the Bible are occasionally and correctly spoken of. Native gods are mentioned, as well as Christian missionaries. Several people convert to Christianity.


The story starts with a shipwreck, a dead man is found by the boys, cannibalism is witnessed, there are battles between the natives, a man is eaten by a shark, the natives horrifically kill each other and worse is mentioned though not witnessed. Though the ideas are far more disturbing than graphic, Ballantyne does mention such details as the men being slain with eyes bursting from their heads, and many various methods of murder are referenced or witnessed such as strangling and worse. Babies are a part in this, though that is just told, not shown. All is seen or heard with horror by Ralph and shown as very wrong.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Brandy is mentioned and a native chief gets drunk.

Sexual Content


Crude or Profane Language or Content

None that I recall.


Readers will learn about the amazing vegetation and ways of these islands as well as a lot of information about the inhabitants of the islands including the effect of Christianity upon the people and culture, thus making this a great study book. However the violence makes The Coral Island better for older people who can stand it.

Fun Score: 3.5
Values Score: 4.5
Written for Age: 13+

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