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Book Review

This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

The narrator informs the reader that this book is an abridged version of S. Morgenstern's classic. He uses this fictionalized unabridged version of the story as a trope throughout.

Westley and Buttercup have known each other all their lives. Westley originally works at Buttercup’s father's farm and is in love with her. Buttercup, however, barely notices him, until the day that a countess visits. The countess’s interest in Westley is apparent. To Buttercup’s surprise, she feels jealousy and realizes that she is in love with Westley. She tells him.

Westley tells her that he feels the same and must leave to seek his fortune in America. They kiss. After Westly leaves, Buttercup is in raptures and is, according to the narrator, one of the most beautiful women in the world. Sadly, however, after a couple months of bliss, Buttercup receives word that the dread pirate Roberts has killed Westley.

While Buttercup is nursing her broken heart, the prince of the kingdom forces her to accept his offer of marriage or die. Buttercup agrees on the condition that she never has to fall in love with him. Three years pass. Buttercup is now a princess, though not yet married to the prince. She greets her people for the first time.

Shortly after, Buttercup goes out for a solitary ride and is kidnapped by three strangers: a hunchback named Vizzini, who is, according to his own boasting, known for his brains; a foolish giant named Fezzik, who is feared throughout the land for his ability to crush groups of men in his arms, and finally a Spaniard named Inigo, a master swordsman bent on finding and killing the six-fingered man who murdered his father. These three characters have been paid by the prince to kill Buttercup and leave clues that point to a neighboring kingdom as the perpetrators.

They take Buttercup to the Cliffs of Insanity. Shortly before they arrive, they notice a boat following them. This is strange, for they have been told they own the fastest boat in the land. When they reach the cliffs, Fezzik carries them to the top with the help of a rope. The stranger from the boat that followed them climbs the cliffs behind them.

Once they reach the top, the kidnappers cut the rope, expecting the man in black to fall. To their surprise, he grasps a crevice in the rocks and begins to climb again. Vizzini leaves Inigo behind to kill the stranger, as soon as he reaches the top of the cliff.

When the stranger bests Inigo in a duel but doesn’t kill him, Fezzik is left behind to take on the man in black as well. The man in black chokes the giant until the giant is unconscious. Finally, he faces Vizzini. After using a sly trick, he beats Vizzini in a battle of wits. He then takes the girl and leaves his enemy behind.

After many hours of running, Buttercup seizes an opportunity and pushes the man in black down the side of a ravine. It is only a second after this that she realizes that the man is in black in is not a stranger but her long lost love, Westley. Thinking quickly, she throws herself down the ravine after him.

Reunited, they are now both trapped in the ravine. They walk along the bottom of it, and eventually, they make it to the fire swamp. After they battle and beat the challenges in the fire swamp, they leave it and are surrounded by the prince and his troops. Buttercup gives up herself for a promise of safety for Westley (whom we have found out is also the dread pirate Roberts). She is taken back to the castle.

The prince, of course, does not keep his promise. He has his second-hand man inflict pain on Westley. This man is a duke with six-fingers. Westley is tortured, but when he thinks of Buttercup, he feels no pain.

Buttercup is unaware of the fact that her love is being tortured and begins to trust the prince a little more. After many nights of bad dreams, she begs the prince to find her love for her. The prince falsely promises he will and supposedly sends out four ships in search of him.

In the dungeon, the prince’s second-hand man, the duke, has completed a torture machine that does not simply inflict pain but actually removes years from a man’s life. He tries it on Westley, and Westley, despite all his courage, cries like a babe.

Thankfully, Fezzik and Inigo happen to both be in town. They don’t really care about the man in black or Buttercup’s plight, but as they have lost the brains of their operation and Inigo still wants to kill the six-fingered man, they decided to rescue Westley. After many trials, they finally rescue him, but too late. After the prince found that Buttercup doesn’t love him, he had the man tortured to death.

Fortunately for Westley, there happens to be a disgraced miracle man named Max. Fezzik and Inigo take Westly to him, and he is able to revive Westley.

In an epic conclusion, Fezzik and Inigo manage, with the help of Westley's brains, to successfully storm the castle and save the princess. Then Inigo finds the six-fingered man and kills him. The narrator informs us after this abrupt ending that they didn’t live happily ever after but that they were happy enough. For though life may not be fair, it is better than death.

Christian Beliefs

There is one reference to the Bible in this book. The narrator tells us that the King James writers probably didn’t want us to know that Adam was the first hairdresser and therefore left it out.

Other Belief Systems

God is mentioned several times in this book, but it is in the context of Judaism. Adam and the serpent from the Garden of Eden are also mentioned. However the narrator states in one of his interjections during the book that Morgenstern — the fictional author of the original fictional book — was Jewish, not Christian. Also, throughout this book, God seems to be a second thought in all the minds of the characters. He comes up once in a while, but the good characters seek love and honor, not God.

Authority Roles

There are three main authority figures, the first being Buttercup. At the beginning of their relationship, Buttercup is in charge of Westley. Instead of using her power for good, she makes his life as difficult as possible — giving him a chore in the barn that will keep him up all night and telling him to clean her shoes. Buttercup makes sure Westley’s life is not easy.

The second authority figure is Vizzini. Vizzini uses his authority to prey on his two underlings’ insecurities so they will be continually dependent on him. He keeps reminding Fezzig that if it weren’t for him, Fezzig would have nobody. He keeps Inigo in line by constantly reminding him how he [Vizzini] saved him from his excess consumption of alcohol.

The most evident authority figure in this book is the prince himself, and with him the six-fingered man. These two use their power for themselves. The prince only cares about the hunt and taking over the neighboring kingdom. As for the duke, he cares about afflicting pain — literally. It took the duke 11 years to invent the torture machine used on Westley.


Profanity is used twice in this book. Once the author says s--- and at another point calls a character a son of a b--ch.

Violence is depicted throughout this book but is never described in graphic detail. There are many threats of death throughout the book. Inigo promises to kill Westley, and Westley promises to kill Inigo. Both seem eager to fight the other. Fezzig also promises to crush Westley’s head with a rock. He states that he doesn’t want to but that Vizzini told him to and so it must be done.

The only one of these threats that is actually followed through on is Inigo’s threat to kill the six-fingered man who killed his father. Inigo is obsessed with doing this.

The prince and the duke pour boiling oil on Westley’s hands. After that, the duke’s machine sucks the life out of Westley. After Buttercup is kidnapped, she jumps into the water, and Vizzini threatens to cut himself and poor his blood in the water, thus attracting flesh-eating sharks to her side. Then when she finally does come back to the boat, she is knocked out so they can make it to the cliffs of insanity without interruptions.


There is one kissing scene, and the narrator simply says that this kiss was the kiss to end all kisses.

Discussion Topics

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Additional Comments/Notes

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

14 and up


William Goldman






Record Label



Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (USA)


On Video

Year Published





We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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