Go to the kitchen and grab a snack because we are talking food and fiction here people. If you thought Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword was delicious, then you’re going to be in for a treat with her prequel, The Hero and the Crown, which is a Newberry medal winner, an ALA notable book, and an ALA best book for young adults. In terms of culinary cuisine the author seamlessly spoon feeds you excitement, enticement, and passion in just the right amount of doses so as not to under- or over- feed your appetite for adventure. McKinley’s writing is poetic and it’s softness lulls you to another land, yet it is powerful enough to grasp your full attention. For instance: “It was a scream that cut across all senses, sight, and touch and taste and smell as well as hearing; it was a scream sharper than any sword and as brittle as any hatred; as fierce as a hunting foltza and as implacable as winter.”
I found the protagonist Aerin likeable and approachable, but definitely not a girl you’d want to cross. What is so welcoming about this particular character is that things do not come easy to her; she struggles to overcome her own limitations, making her wholly earn her “hero” status. People doubt in Aerin’s abilities–there are even times when she is her harshest critic, but in the face of an inferno of opposition Aerin perseveres because she is stubborn in her efforts, proving that hard work really does pay off. Each battle scene grows in length, duration, and fierceness as Aerin becomes stronger in securing her title as “dragon killer”. Even though the fighting has fantastical elements, the author is able to describe the activity in such a way that you’re able to ascertain that it is an intense reality for the character. You’ll find that in in the salty moments of battle, McKinley will throw in a tidbit of comic relief creating a sweet moment to catch your breath from the heightened drama, thus, making for a savory read.
I know you’re probably sick of my “foodie” terms but bear with me. I recommend reading The Blue Sword before reading it’s prequel, The Hero and the Crown, because even though The Blue Sword is an excellent book, it is more like an appetizer, which prepares your palate for the awesome steak dinner which is The Hero and the Crown. But, both books are great and can be read in any order because they stand independent of each other. With that being said, The Hero and the Crown left me completely satisfied, relishing every morsel of literary goodness. I think I just made myself hungry. It’s off to the fridge and then to the library, hoping to find something I can sink my teeth into at both places (so to speak).
Profanity/Language: 14 religious exclamations; 5 mild obscenities; 1 derogatory name.
Violence/Gore: Brief scene (about 1 paragraph) of characters involved in a physical altercation with one another, they also exchange verbal threats; character wishes to murder another; brief mention of character dying in childbirth; report of character examining a wound received during a fight, no blood mentioned; character is known as “dragon killer”; report of fire set to village, no details given; brief report given of three characters and one animal dying, two characters and one animal being injured in altercation, no further details given; extended scene (about 2 pages) of how an animal received an injury in battle, blood is mentioned; animal demonstrates aggressive behavior towards other animals and humans; brief story told of character dying from a poisonous plant; report of mythical creatures injuring and /or killing humans and animals; brief story told of a character dying due to injuries incurred fighting a mythical creature; sword training mentioned; character receives a burn during an experiment; report of a mythical creature killing animals and badly burning a child; extended scene (3 pages) of character battling a mythical creature , blood and injuries received during battle are mentioned; character hits another character; character kills a mythical creature, mention of washing blood from hands; character is bitten by a mythical creature, in this same scene the character kills the mythical creature, the scene is somewhat graphic in detail, blood is mentioned; character kills 2 adult mythical creatures and 4 of it’s offspring, no details given; extended scene (4 pages) character battles a mythical creature receiving burn injuries/mutilation and a broken ankle, animal is reported to be hurt, this scene is somewhat graphic in nature, mentions “ dragon gore” and character coughing blood; brief story told of character dying from mortal wounds received defending their people; mention of animals paw pads bleeding from scraping at a vine; extended scene (about 3 pages) of two characters battling one another with swords and magic, blood and screaming mentioned; extended war/battle scene (about 6 pages) words such as “dying cries”, “shrill screams”, “disembowel” used to describe battle, blood and gore are mentioned but not in great detail; detailed report of an animal attacking a foe; animals fight with humans to oppose enemy; the after effects of battle are mentioned–for instance, reports of death, property destruction, orphaned children.
Sex/Nudity: Few reports of animals breeding; one instance of characters engaging in flirtatious behavior–they kiss, touch one another in places not normally covered by a bathing suit, spend the night cuddling with one another, it is not reported in detail but there is an implication/innuendo that the characters might engage in sexual activity; a few brief instances of characters embracing and kissing chastely.
Mature Subject Matter:
Civil unrest, social conflict, war/battles, death of parent(s).
Alcohol / Drug Use:
A few mentions of wine being served with meals; report of character becoming drunk; mention of character drugging another character.