Jarrah's Reviews > The Hero and the Crown

The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
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's review
Mar 01, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: adult-specfic, z-chosen-one, z-dragons, high-or-epic-fantasy, setting-secondary-world, adult-fiction, fantasy
Recommended to Jarrah by: Jackie
Read in February, 2008

Epic fantasy. A centuries-earlier prequel to The Blue Sword, which I've not read. Aerin is the king's daughter, but her place at his court is precarious; she's the daughter of the witchwoman who ensnared the king, and can't be trusted. She's not talented, she's not beautiful, and the one skill she's stubbornly cultivated - slaying the doglike small, vicious dragons being pests in the countryside - is not a noble or admirable one. Mostly she feels small and scruffy, and she's always tried not to test the loyalty of her one staunch friend at court, Tor. But when word comes in that one of the terrifying Great dragons has appeared again, it's Aerin who rides out to meet it.

I spent the first half of this in an agony of love and envy over the awesomeness of the style and the characterisation. I don't read much epic fantasy anymore, because heroic is usually a little bit boring, but Aerin was heroic in absolutely the best way. She worked at it stubbornly and sometimes ineptly, and she was terrified but she gritted her teeth anyway, and she wanted to be proud of her battle scars but she hated them; and she was heroic in everything, in fighting monsters and in facing up to her father's court even though she knew she'd be laughed at, and dreaded it.

The shared POV with Tor in the first parts worked really well, too, although it threw me the first time we switched to his POV in the middle of a scene. Seeing what Tor thought of Aerin made both of them richer, and made the love story more compelling, when it often makes it less.

And then she slew the dragon and the story kept going, and Aerin stopped being scruffy and become godlike, her movements directed not by her own uncertain human judgment, but by an unerring intuition, a hero directed from above. And even the romances - she got two, which is a narrative problem to begin with for me - became things that she knew, serenely, were inevitable and almost preordained. And I read on feeling profoundly disappointed, and wishing Tor would come and shake her, since Luthe was obviously just encouraging the awfulness.

Maybe there were restrictions on where the story had to go based on the history in the first book. Maybe the image of Aerin in The Blue Sword required that she become this godlike intuitive figure, rather than the girl watching her father's army leave without her whom I fell for in the space of three paragraphs.

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