While clearing some of JD’s childhood books out of boxes in the office, I came across The Hero and the Crown, a Young Adult Newbery winner from 1984. Figuring it might be good light reading to break up some harder fantasy, I threw it into my stack. It ended up being a quick little read, and quite enjoyable. I also have to give it props for being pretty revolutionary, given that it was written 26 years ago.
The plot follows Aerin, daughter of a king, who is ostracized from the court and her peers for being awesome, strong, and dragon-slay-ey, rather than docile, fashion-obsessed, and girly. The plot follows her as she grows up from an awkward ugly duckling into a strong woman who stands against the darkness threatening the land. The flow of the story is a little jumpy, unexpectedly going back in time at points and then lurching forward faster than the prose suggests – in reality, this book wanted to be 600 pages, not 250. Still, pacing issues aside, the author makes some ballsy moves for a YA novel, being especially vicious with her main character’s well-being, and investigating themes that are touché even in adult novels (such as loving more than one person).
Also, let it be known that Robin McKinley writes horses better than any fantasy author I’ve ever read. I get so very sick of authors making stupid horse-generalizations and talking about galloping to a halt, neglecting gaits, ignoring personalities and ear-gestures, etc. If you don’t know anything about horses, don’t call attention to your ignorance. Either don’t talk about horses, ride a horse for a few weeks, or read McKinely’s book.
Anyway, the long and short of this review is this: if I had read The Hero and the Crown at 14 or so I would have been a die-hard McKinely fan for life. As it is, I can appreciate her potential and might pick up another book of hers from time to time and will definitely recommend her to my bookworm sister, who might still be young enough to appreciate her.