Review: The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

HeroandthecrownSeries: Damar #1
Published by: Open Road Media Teen & Tween
Published: November 2014 (first published 1984)
Pages: 244
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Recommended

I must confess these books passed me by until now, which is a great shame as they would have been fantastic to read in my youth, when I should have been getting into speculative fiction but sadly remained more in the Australian generic children’s book genre instead. Which wasn’t such a bad thing – Jackie French is still one of my favourite authors – but how I wished I’d read fantasy from a young age rather than just that brief brush with Eddings and not much more – not even The Hobbit!

All that aside, I loved this book – I loved the style and how we follow Aerin from when she’s young until she’s eighteen and all she achieves. I also love that there’s not really any ‘females shall only do these tasks’ kinds of ideas in this world, even if it’s otherwise mostly the typical fantasy novel with castle and certain ways of having to dress up and dragons and such. Aerin is encouraged and welcome to learn sword play and go out for one night by herself with her horse, and she’s believed and welcomed when she herself discovers cures for certain things that they’ve been trying to discover for hundreds of years – you’ll note I’m trying to keep spoilers to a minimum, whilst still saying what I loved.

There’s not much I didn’t like about this book – I think it all goes as expected, and the romance in this was interesting and probably more realistic than we’re used to as readers.

This is one of the classics of speculative fiction, and recommended reading for those who love the genre. It’s has a lovely use of style and a way of taking characters who serve a certain role, yet remain individuals with their own characterisation without being dull or feeling like they’re just cut from the usual cookie cutter – they feel like real people.

What works best in this novel is how we see Aerin achieve everything. It’s a hard slog, it’s believable and she’s incredible for what she manages to do. It shows her inner strength, the luck she has, those who assist her throughout and how she learns from it all.

As of November 2014 the following titles by Robin McKinley are now available as ebooks:

The Hero and the Crown
Rose Daughter
The Outlaws of Sherwood
The Door in the Hedge
A Knot in the Grain


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