Reading Is Good For You

Book Reviews, Literary News, and Thoughts on Life

The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

Aerin could not remember a time when she had not known the story; she had grown up knowing it.

It was the story of her mother, the witchwoman who enspelled the king into marrying her, to get an heir that would rule Damar; and it was told that she turned her face to the wall and died of despair when she found she had borne a daughter instead of a son.

Aerin was that daughter.

But there was more of the story yet to be told; Aerin’s destiny was greater than even she had dreamed – for she was to be the true hero who would wield the power of the Blue Sword . . .

I finished Hero a few days ago and I’m finally getting around to writing up the review. I must say, I really enjoyed this book and I’m glad I finally got around to reading it. Many reviewers  have debated over which is better: The Blue Sword or The Hero and the Crown, but I think they are both well written, but different enough in content to love both books equally. With that being said, I am glad that I read The Blue Sword first, as stories of people like Aerin and Tor are merely hinted at, and aspects of Damarian culture, like their unique riding style, are simply taken for granted, but in The Hero and the Crown, the people are fleshed out and readers get to see how the culture originated. In my opinion, one should have their eyes opened, so to speak, to the mystery of the Damarian culture along with Harry in The Blue Sword, and that can’t happen if one has already read The Hero and the Crown.

There are many mentions of Aerin in The Blue Sword – she is a revered, beloved hero, her feats of courage an inspiration to her people. The beginning of Hero shows us a different side to the lady they call Dragon Killer. Ostracized for the despised Northern blood flowing through her veins and ridiculed for her lack of the magic Gift common to the royal family, Aerin has grown to be a shy and clumsy young woman when in the presence of her relations and the Court. Her best friend Tor, however, is privy to her feisty wit, her fiery passion – the part of her that so stubbornly desires to become someone worthy of the respect of her father and the people of Damar. And so, with the covert weapons training Tor provides and the loyal support of a down-trodden war horse, Aerin is propelled along the path leading her to become the Dragon Killer and, ultimately, the savior of the kingdom of Damar.

Never let it be said that I don’t love Harry, but once her full power was awakened in her, nearly everything required of her became almost ridiculously easy for her to accomplish (the central theme of The Blue Sword, of course, was Harry discovering her true place in the world, so this is acceptable). I do think I came to respect Aerin a bit more because of what she had to overcome both in her relationships with others and the tasks laid before her before she could achieve her destiny.

As I read, I found myself smiling as little bits of Damarian culture was explained (Oh, so that’s how those hunting cats came into play and I get now why the Hillfolk now ride sans bridle and stirrup). I also will admit that I coveted Aerin’s animal companions – why be bothered by those trash-talking cousins when you’ve got a faithful war horse and a dozen fierce wild cats and dogs on your side?

I do admit that while I was a bit confused by the rather medieval environment and lush landscape found in Hero when the Damar with which I was familiar was rather covered with sand and populated by desert nomads, that is eventually explained. And, yes, I was a bit thrown for a loop by Aerin’s . . . err . . . relationship with the infamous Luthe, but it didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of this book (and despite its rather where-did-that-come-from nature, I found myself believing in it. Still have to root for my boy Tor, though, because he loved Aerin before knowing the true nature of her heritage).

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