the kingdom of damar books
by Robin McKinley
The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown
A classics review by Sree:
Two childhood favorites.
Two books that changed what female heroines could be.
Two books that still hold up to the zillionth read.
Although The Hero and the Crown is the prequel, I would follow the order in which the books were written and start with The Blue Sword.
Following the death of her father, Harry Crewe must leave the Homeland for a remote colonial outpost in the Province of Damar, a desert region with a mysterious indigenous people known as the hillfolk. The setting is reminiscent of British colonial rule, and McKinley pokes fun at the stiff Homelanders and of the whole concept of “going native”.
McKinley's beginnings tend to lay out the land and characters, but by chapter three, Harry is kidnapped by the king of the hillfolk, where she will learn why she's felt a strange affinity to the land.
The Blue Sword
So why do I love it so much? I think Harry's transformation from Homelander to sword-carrying, stallion-riding heroine of the ages is fantastic. It's amazing how such a short book (only 256 pages in my version) can feel so epic. At least it did when I was a kid—I've read it too many times to see it with a fresh eye.
It's also an awesome feminist tale where we learn that only a woman can save the land. Nothing to sneeze at when fantasy heroes still tend to be mostly male. This must have been fairly ground-breaking in 1982 when it was first published.
covers through the decades
The Hero and the Crown
The Blue Sword introduced Lady Aerin, Dragon Killer as a legend from a bygone era. The Hero and the Crown is her story.
What can I say? I read a lot of fairytales growing up and I loved the Disney movies, but I was always wondering why the prince got all the action. In The Hero and the Crown, a girl gets to slay her own dragons! And she does it better than any of the men in her country have before.
Just like The Blue Sword, it blows me away how epic this story felt with so few pages. Again, McKinley's beginnings tend to be slow, with a lot of character development. But I think that establishing how little influence Aerin has at the start emphasizes her growth by the end and makes the story as a whole feel larger than life.
As a kid, it was the first time I had ever read a character with two love interests. But don't worry, it's not angsty. The romances feels real and subtle and they each work out in their own way. Nope, not telling you how.
If you want to read the anti-fairytale, read this!
lots of editions for a classic