Reading Is Good For You

Book Reviews, Literary News, and Thoughts on Life

Books that Rock: The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

This is the story of Corlath, golden-eyed king of the Free Hillfolk, son of the sons of the Lady Aerin.

And this is the story of Harry Crewe, the Outlander orphan girl who became Harimad-sol, King’s Rider, and bearer of the Blue Sword, Gonturan, the sword Lady Aerin carried, the sword only a woman may wield, for it will turn in the hands of a man.

And this is a story of the kelar of the Hillfolk, the magic in the blood, and how it may wake even in Outlander veins.

I’m not sure when I discovered The Blue Sword. It might have been in middle school when I was going through my horse crazy phase, or perhaps it was during my undergrad years when I had to read a Newbery book for an education class. Regardless, this is one of those books that is comforting and familiar, one that I grab again and again to escape from the stress and drama of my everyday life.

If you’ve ever felt that you didn’t quite fit in, had the urge to throw off the lackluster confines of your society and escape into the wilderness, or are not considered quite the ideal specimen of feminine beauty, then chances are you can relate to Harry Crewe, the female protagonist. If that’s not quite the case with you, well, there’s still a lot to love about her. She’s strong and brave, without sacrificing femininity, dignified under duress (i.e. she refrains from the waterworks and hysterics), does the right thing, even though it might cost her dearly, and has a wee bit of stubbornness thrown in for good measure.

And then there’s Corlath. How can I do his description justice? He’s a subtle and mysterious character,canny,  just a bit impulsive, and has quite the temper. He relies heavily on his instincts (so to speak), even when they tell him to whisk away the oversized blonde Outlander girl in the middle of the night. This may make him sound a bit like the stereotypical  fantasy genre brute, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Though he is unmistakably this masculine warrior type, there is also this tenderness and gentleness about Corlath that makes him instantly appealing. It’s dear the way he interacts with Harry, treating her with respect and according her the highest honors, all the while hoping that she will come to view his beloved country not as a prison, but home.

Though there are plenty of exciting occurences in the plot, this is essentially a coming-of-age story for Harry, how she goes from the girl who doesn’t quite belong and isn’t for sure why, to discovering her true heritage and her rightful place in the world. Though I could wish for more interaction between Harry and Corlath, since I enjoyed watching the subtle blossoming of their relationship, I do understand that it’s not quite the focus of this story (though could you throw us a bone, Ms. McKinley and create a sequel or two instead of a sum-up at the end of the book?).

Though the story itself is great, I did have some qualms with the sentence structure. Girlfriend gave some of my former eighth grade students a run for their money when it came to run-on sentences. I’m sure it was in some way intentional (though I’m not quite sure why it would be), but geeze. And don’t get me started with the cover of the copy I originally read. I think one should not be allowed to draw horseback riders if they are not at all familiar with what will and will not work when sitting on a moving horse. I’m certainly glad I was able to snag a copy of the ‘adult’ cover from Paperback Swap (not to mention I can read it in public without some smart alec laughing at me for reading kiddy fantasy books).


And now on to Books that Rock, the segment where I provide a song or two that describe events occuring in the chosen book (spoilers may occur in the song descriptions, so watch out).

Strange and Beautiful by Aqua Lung

So, maybe most of the lyrics don’t apply, but I just couldn’t resist the line “I’ll put a spell on you/you’ll fall asleep when I put a spell on you/and when you wake up, I’ll be the first thing you see and you’ll realize that you love me (well, eventually). How perfect is that for when Corlath steals Harry away in the middle of the night from the window of her bedroom?

On Up the Mountain by Jakob Dylan

I thought the line “There’s a light making its way on up the mountain . . . You’ll get tired, you’ll get weak, but you won’t abandon your masterpiece” a pretty apt way to describe Harry’s involvement in a certain battle against the Northerners. Plus, it’s a great song and Jakob Dylan (yes, the son of that Dylan) has a wonderful gritty quality to his voice that expresses the sentiments of this song particularly well (if that makes any sense at all – it is early yet).


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