I’ve mentioned my love for The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley once already. As further evidence of my love for the book, I offer the following: I recently purchased my very own copy of The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword. (I have a long list of books I’ve always loved but never owned just waiting to be purchased one or two at a time when I find $30 I don’t need elsewhere. These two were right at the top of that list.) Not a week later, before I’d so much as cracked the cover, I wrapped the book up and sent it as a gift to my sister and niece. And so it was that a few days ago, I happily ordered yet another copy of The Hero and the Crown for myself. This time, I read it before the urge to share the book compelled me to give it away again.
From the publisher: “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.”
There are so many things that I love about this book: there is plenty of action, but there is heart as well. It has all the components of a classic fantasy novel: there are magical artifacts, a named sword, and an ancient dragon. The main character is a well-meaning but sometimes awkward teenager. Who doesn’t feel that dichotomy at 13? The book has plenty to offer now that I’m out of the awkward teenage stage as well. It depicts love (paternal, fraternal, and romantic) in such a truthful way. The hero saves the day, but it’s not as clean cut as in many adventure novels. In fact, the final chapters of the book seemed a bit hurried and confusing for me the first time I read the book. It didn’t keep me from reading it again (and again and again). Like most of Robin McKinley books, this one gets better with each read. Best of all (if you tire of lengthy series as I sometimes do), the companion novel can be read first or second or not at all and you won’t be missing anything vital.
My last bit of praise for The Hero and the Crown is this: it won the Newberry Medal in 1985. Whether you start with The Hero and the Crown or The Blue Sword (which was published first but takes place many years later), do start somewhere. In my opinion, her Damarian novels are some of Robin McKinley’s most timeless.
I would recommend this to: an older child, teen, or adult who has ever been caught daydreaming about dragons.