The Blue Sword

131936by Robin McKinley
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars

I first encountered this story when I was around 12, the same time I discovered its companion prequel, The Hero and the Crown. That book went on to become my favorite novel–and it still is, 20+ re-reads later–but The Blue Sword faded into distant memory. I finally decided to pick it up again to see if I could learn why this happened. I enjoyed it so much more this time! It has a slower pace than its counterpart, which is probably why when I was younger I found it dull. McKinley is known for more description than dialogue in her work, and since these descriptions didn’t include slaying dragons, I set it aside once I was done and forgot about it. I was unjust!

Harry’s story of coming to a strange land and discovering an even stranger destiny for herself is rich with gradually growing emotion and stakes. Instead of the more “traditional” quest of Aerin, we follow Harry’s rather more realistic journey of learning about a new and ancient culture and her blind struggle to find her place in it. She feels the battle we all feel at some point–that we’re meant to do something important, but we can’t see the future, so we just have to hope that each choice we make is the right one. Typically a wise wizard hangs around long enough to give the hero the specifics of the quest, but in this case Harry forges her path alone with the barest cryptic hints. She is a lovable heroine, and the slow revelation of clues to her fate kept my attention with her wry narration of it all.

Fans of McKinley’s work will enjoy this, as will anyone who prefers a book meant for a slow read in a cozy chair. If you are new to McKinley’s style, I would suggest reading Aerin’s story first.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Blue Sword is available on Goodreads and its parent company Amazon. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch – Meira is part of a small band of Winterian refugees struggling to restore the rightful king to the throne and overthrow Spring’s invasion. Like Harry, Meira discovers her true destiny isn’t what she expected. See my review here.
  • The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski – Kestrel lives in a world of strategic games, whether it’s against her father’s plans for her future or society’s constraints. When Kestrel bids on and wins a slave named Arin, she realizes choosing her own path isn’t as simple as she hoped. See my review here.
  • The Chronicles of Chrestomanci Vol. 1 by Diana Wynne Jones – Two novellas about the enchanter with nine lives that keeps the magic of the Twelve Related Worlds in check. Before becoming the Chrestomanci, Christopher Chant and Cat Chant have a lot to learn about magic and their role in the multiverse. These are fun, inventive stories and some of my favorites by this author.
  • Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee – Kai has always known she can see and manipulate the threads of time, but when her brother disappears, her quest to find him leads her to her own unexpected destiny. See my review here.
  • The Riddle-Master of Hed by Patricia A. McKillip – The first in a close-knit, heavily symbolic trilogy about Morgon and his betrothed, Raederle, as they try to solve some of the greatest riddles of their world and save it from the shape-shifters’ destruction. This has polarized reviews but McKillip is worth checking out.
  • Chalice by Robin McKinley – If you enjoyed The Blue Sword, this book is similar and beautifully written. It’s one of my favorites – a vague Beauty and the Beast retelling – and simply delightful. See my review here.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Eve Messenger
    Aug 14, 2015 @ 13:13:22

    With all the books you’ve read, The Hero and the Crown is your favorite? I really want to read it now!



  2. Eve Messenger
    Aug 14, 2015 @ 13:17:04

    ::clack, clack, clack of keys:: Adding to TBR list.



  3. Trackback: Snow Like Ashes | To Live a Thousand Lives

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