The Hero and the Crown | Robin McKinley
Awards: Newbery Medal
The Hero and the Crown is the tale of Princess Aerin of the
land of Damar. The only child of king Arlbeth and a woman rumored to be a witch, Aerin struggles to find her place at court— a place to be useful and loved. In part one of the book, Aerin discovers a kindred spirit in the company of a wounded but aggressive war horse named Talat. Together they embark on adventures that take Aerin from the suspicions of her father’s people to a Dragon Slayer and hero of Damar. In part two, Aerin faces her true challenges including combat with the great dragon Maur, the search for the Hero’s Crown, and at last standing up to the powerful mage Agsded, in order to save her people from destruction.
Suggested Age Group: 12 and up
Graphic wounds from a Dragon and war violence. Witchcraft. Magic. Mage. Poisoning. Brief hint of a sexual encounter; so subtle you might just miss it.
Robin McKinley is one of my favorite children’s authors. I found her fantastic debut novel Beauty at my local library and read it three or four times before buying my own copy. I was excited to see her on the Newbery Medal list, and could not wait to read The Hero and the Crown. I read it in a single day. I loved it and I hated it. I loved it because this book has everything that a fantasy novel should have; a dragon, magic, a noble King, a brave princess, an evil sorcerer, a likable prince. But what this book does even better is to take those well worn tropes of fantasy and weave them into a new, beautifully original, powerful world. The dragons of Damar were my favorite aspect of this book. The dragons were real and terrifying, like dragons should be.
I hated it because I felt that Princess Aerin’s fate changed her from herself into something more than herself; a legend. And legends are not quite people. Legends go beyond community and relationship. I do not enjoy the plot device of a single character equally yet separately in love with two people. I feel it cheapens a person’s understanding of commitment. I wanted the Hero and the Crown to have a neat happy ending, but though the ending is happy, it is neither very neat nor very satisfying. Perhaps this was McKinley’s intention all along. Books like this stay with me because they challenge my desire for life to fit in neat packaged boxes. My two favorite characters were first sol (the Damar male heir to the throne, so a prince) Tor and the old war horse, Talat. I spent half the book wishing the horse could talk. Oh well.
The Hero and the Crown is a wonderful read with an incredible strong young woman forging beyond herself to become the Hero wielding the Blue Sword restoring the Crown to the people of Damar. If you love fantasy, try this one. Like me, you may not like the ending, but you will be glad to have met all McKinley’s wonderful characters along the way. If you find you love the ending, email me and tell me why. I’d love to here from you!