One of the joys about moving or even just re-arranging your bookshelves is seeing old friends. You know, the books you re-read at least once a year whose covers are well worn and whose binding is cracked. The ones that even though you know every detail of the story you can still immerse yourself in the author’s world and characters. I decided to re-visit some old friends and share them with you in my next reviews.
I am starting with my first old friend, The Hero and The Crown. The Blue Sword, will be my next review. Why am I introducing you to the second book first? This is the order I found them in and when re-reading I persist in sticking to this order. I first discovered this book in elementary school during silent reading time. One of my teachers had a wonderful collection of books in the back of the classroom for us to read and this was one of them.
I was hooked from the opening line “She could not remember a time when she had not known the story; she had grown up knowing it.” Of course I immediately wanted to know what this story was and I did find out as the book progressed. By that time I was fully engrossed in the world of Damar and its inhabitants. Ms McKinley’s skill with words never ceases to amaze me. Her characters are fully fleshed out and three-dimensional including the four-footed kind and the villain. She also treats the reader to lush descriptions of a very different world. Damar has horses, dragons, magic, royalty, demon mischief, hunting cats and dogs and very little modern technology, yet as a reader you are drawn in to the point where you can almost see and smell the world.
Aerin is the only child of the king of Damar. Now Damar is a pretty progressive country so this wouldn’t normally be a problem except that Aerin doesn’t quite fit the mold of heir to the throne. It’s rumored that her mother came from the north, and enchanted the king into marrying her. Why else would he remain single all these years after she died at Aerin’s birth? Aerin herself never seemed to develop any traces of the Royal Gift (magic) that all the other members of the extended royal family first exhibited in varying degrees during early childhood. She also experienced a severe negative reaction to the royal plant, Surka. Legend has it that only those with the Royal Gift can safely handle Surka. Aerin’s inability to do so adds to the concerns that she is not a fit heir. Then there are the little things her clumsiness, inability to care about or keep her clothes looking pristine, and her complete lack of social graces.
Despite these seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Aerin is driven to find something she can do that will benefit her father’s land and its citizens. I am not going to tell you what the ‘something else’ is because that is pretty spoilerific except that it takes a lot of time, research, and practice and is pretty dangerous. Once she thinks she has finally achieved that goal she finds out that while what she is doing is important, it isn’t enough to silence years of concerns. Yet Aerin refuses to give up and eventually lives up to her destiny.
As a reader I thoroughly enjoyed the lush descriptions, the character growth and how the heroine has to work for everything she achieves. While a short book for Ms McKinley, at 227 pages, it is filled with adventure, excitement, pain and lessons. I still, *cough* years later *cough*, take inspiration from Aerin’s struggles when life gets tough. That is not to say that the book doesn’t have its faults. Some of the more romance inclined readers may take offense at the ending and who Aerin ends up with, but Ms McKinley gives a very plausible explanation and it fits Aerin’s character. I hope you will decide to give The Hero and The Crown a try or pull down, dust off and re-read your battered copy.