Retro Friday is a meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville about books that are old favorites or books that bloggers think don’t get the attention it deserves. The Blue Sword is one of my favorite books of all time and I don’t get tired of rereading it. Sometimes, when I need a comfort read, I go back to this book because I just love Robin McKinley‘s writing. I’m a huge Robin McKinley fan. I realized that I never wrote about this book but I’ve been recommending it to fantasy-lovers.
Anyway, here’s the summary from Harper Collins’ website:
Harry is drawn to the bleak landscape of the northeast frontier, so unlike the green hills of her Homeland. The desert she stares across was once a part of the great kingdom of Damar, before the Homelanders came from over the seas. Harry wishes she might cross the sands and climb the dark mountains where no Homelander has ever set foot, where the last of the old Damarians, the Free Hillfolk, still live. She hears stories that the Free Hillfolk possess strange powers – that they work magic – that it is because of this that they remain free of the Homelander sway.
When the king of the Free Hillfolk comes to Istan to ask that the Homelanders and the Hillfolk set their enmity aside to fight a common foe, the Homelanders are reluctant to trust his word, and even more reluctant to believe his tales of the Northerners: that they are demonkind, not human.
Harry’s destiny lies in the far mountains that she once wished to climb, and she will ride to the battle with the North in the Hill-king’s army, bearing the Blue Sword, Gonturan, the chiefest treasure of the Hill-king’s house and the subject of many legends of magic and mystery.
The story starts with this first line: “She scowled at her glass of orange juice.” and I don’t know why I remember it but I do. The Blue Sword is one of Robin McKinley’s earlier novels and it has become a classic in YA fantasy circles. I wish I found out about this book when I was younger because I knew I would’ve loved it even then. The setting of this story is Damar, a desert kingdom where Hillfolk live and magic still exists. Harry comes to live in Istan, the Homeland’s remotest colonial town and military outpost, near Damar. Soon after she arrives, Corlath, the Hill-king, comes for a visit to warn the diplomats of the town that an invasion from the North is upon them. However, the meeting doesn’t go well and the Homelanders refuse to believe Corlath’s warning. Corlath leaves but for reasons unknown even to him, his magic urges him to go back and whisk Harry off to Damar. He then makes the King’s Riders, special warriors loyal to the Hill-king, train her as one of their own. Harry proceeds to live her dream of having adventures. She plays an integral role in the war and eventually becomes a Damalur-sol, a lady hero. Here’s another quote from the book that I really liked, that I’m sure some people can relate to:
“She had always suffered from a vague restlessness, a longing for adventure that she told herself severely was the result of reading too many novels when she was a small child.”
I love this book. I love the characters – Harry and Corlath and everyone else who helps them along the way. Corlath is one of my fictional crushes and Harry and Corlath are in my favorite literary couples. I love the setting and Robin McKinley’s lyrical writing style. I highly recommend this book for fans of YA fantasy and anyone who likes to read about strong female protagonists. The Hero and the Crown is the prequel to The Blue Sword and is set 500 years before Harry’s time. It tells the story of Aerin, the original heroine who carried Gonturan.