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The Blue Sword

(Damar #1)

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  53,175 ratings  ·  2,664 reviews
Harry Crewe is an orphan girl who comes to live in Damar, the desert country shared by the Homelanders and the secretive, magical Free Hillfolk. When Corlath, the Hillfolk King, sees her for the first time, he is shaken -- for he can tell that she is something more than she appears to be. He will soon realize what Harry has never guessed: she is to become Harimad-sol, King ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published October 1st 2000 by Puffin Books (first published October 1st 1982)
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Jason Holt My wife and I read The Blue Sword first. The two books set up an inside joke. If you've read The Hero and the Crown, then you can laugh at the people…moreMy wife and I read The Blue Sword first. The two books set up an inside joke. If you've read The Hero and the Crown, then you can laugh at the people making a legend out of this ordinary person who was just fumbling around trying to do her best. And if you've read The Blue Sword, then you can laugh at this person fumbling around, not realizing that everything she does will become part of a heroic legend.

So, yeah. It works either way.(less)
Allipink I haven't ever read those books you mention, but I would not describe anything about this book as "generic," and there are no love triangles. I don't…moreI haven't ever read those books you mention, but I would not describe anything about this book as "generic," and there are no love triangles. I don't know what you're looking for in a book, but I would never hesitate to recommend The Blue Sword as an example of quality and depth of story and characterization.(less)

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Average rating 4.22  · 
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 ·  53,175 ratings  ·  2,664 reviews


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Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Feb. 2018 reread (for the umpteenth time) with my real-life book club. One of my all-time favorite comfort reads!

If you're wondering why YA fantasy lovers praise Robin McKinley (and based on her more recent novels that's a fair question), this book is one of the reasons.

The Blue Sword is one of those magical fantasies that I've read more times than I can count, and love beyond reason. I also think this 1982 book has been a little bit forgotten over the years, at least if you're not/>The
...more
Tatiana
Feb 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of Kristin Cashore, Megan Whalen Turner
Recommended to Tatiana by: Heather
Shelves: 2010, fantasy, newbery, ya
This book proves once more that standards for YA fiction have gone significantly down over the last 10 years. You just rarely come by this kind of writing any more.

"The Blue Sword" is an age old story of a young woman who after years feeling not belonging, invisible, and insignificant, finds her strength after being kidnapped by a mysterious Hill-king who possesses magic powers. Gradually she discovers an ancient magic inside herself, comes to terms with her abilities, acquires friends and love
...more
Kogiopsis
Aug 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Added at the bottom: the perfect song for this book. Seriously, if it's ever made into a movie, this song should be in the trailer.



The description on this book's GR page is not my favorite synopsis. I think my little well-loved paperback says it better:

This is the story of Corlath, golden-eyed king of the Free Hillfolk, son of the sons of the Lady Aerin.
And this is the story of Harry Crewe, the Homelander orphan girl who became Harimad-sol, King's Rider, and h/>
This
...more
Mayim de Vries
“There never was a choice. I ride the only way open to me, and yet often and again it seems to me I am dangerously unfit for it.”

A penniless orphan of average beauty (it starts like a bad romance, no? WAIT FOR IT) called Harry (I DARE you not to think about Prince Harry’s bearded face now!) is forced to leave her home in the England Homeland empire and accept hospitality of strangers in Damaria, a desert land recently colonised but still inhabited by mysterious nomad Hillfolk.

The opening chapter reminded me of Guns of the Dawn and I
...more
Gail Carriger
Nov 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya, fantasy, favorites
There are many out there who think The Hero and the Crown the better book, but I read The Blue Sword first and Harry is my one true love. That's part of it. I always liked the romance line better in The Blue Sword. And there's something remarkable in that, because for most of this book the two are separated. Yet I believe in their match unquestionably. Alanna was my first girl with a sword and magic, Harry was the first one I felt was like me.
Eliza
Aug 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: EVERYONE EVER.
Shelves: romance
I've read this book so many times over the year that this time I went out and bought a new copy because my cover is in tatters. But I reread it again and loved it again, unsurprisingly. McKinley still amazes me with how fully realized Damar is as a place, how familiar the Homeland and its desire to civilise feels, and how freaking scary the Northerners are. (Seriously, y'all. Motherfuckers are SCARY.)

This is the perfect escapism book, partially because that's what Harry, our delightf
...more
mark monday
a pleasure to read.

wonderful heroine. reminded me a bit of Brienne from ASOIF although quite a different character overall. I loved her nonchalant displays of bravery and independence, her easy acceptance of her own difference from others, her drama-free perspective on the world(s) around her, her quiet and her calm.

opening chapters felt distinctly like an alternate version of colonial era Britain. interesting path into a high fantasy novel.

best kidnapping eve
...more
Althea Ann
Feb 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Re-read for book club.

I got this book when I was eleven, I believe, and that was the perfect age. I have read this book so many times that picking it up again, after many years, was like hearing an old favorite song come onto the radio... each phrase resonating clearly in memory, bringing with it emotional associations.

So - I can't claim to be wholly objective about the book. I can say that if I has read it for the first time now, it would not have been as meaningful to m
...more
Becky
This is my first Robin McKinley book, though I do have a couple others in my possession that need to be read.

I wasn't really thrilled with this one though. Up until about 50% I was liking it quite a bit, though I couldn't tell you why, because nothing at all had happened. But it didn't take long (or, rather, it took too long) and I started to feel like the story would never actually start, and now that I've finished, all I can say is that it didn't really do anything for me.

It seemed that ever
...more
Mariel
Jun 02, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: blue
Recommended to Mariel by: black
Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword blue me away. (What can I do for swords?) I don't know how to handle the feeling in a review. I'm in it to the hilt. It's sheathed in my memory.... No, I got nothing! (Blue words!) (Stop it, Mar!)

Reading that someone likes world-building and atmospherics doesn't really convey why I thought this was awesome so I won't try and be a normal reviewer for once. McKinley knows what she's doing. She's a master(sword bater!). This is not a glorified fanfic. All
...more
Keertana
I don’t get it. I just don’t. Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword has been acclaimed as one of the most remarkable fantasy novels of our age, but I am unable to see why. I suppose the best way I can describe The Blue Sword is to tell you that it is similar to a camp-fire story – entertaining, filled with action and heroes, a rather under-developed romance, and ultimately, a story that needs to be told again and again with more and more details filled in every time. In fact, I would go so far as ...more
Erik
This book is better than it ought to be, and I'm honestly a bit bamboozled why I received it as well as I did (or why it has such a good rating here on Goodreads). Let me break it down, then, into the Good, the Bad, and the My-Theory-On-Its-High-Rating, starting with...

The Bad

1. Many technical aspects of this book are just bizarre. There are point of view switches MID PARAGRAPH. Much of the story is told in a third-person-limited focusing on Harry Crewe, a girl sent to the wild and/>The
...more
Stephanie
Partly through reading this book I began a list of "Things you must have in your typical girly-adventure novel."

1. Main character must acquire godlike combat skills in a matter of weeks even if she has never demonstrated any previous ability. Check.

2. Main character must have cool sword with cool name. Check.

3. Main character must have animal companions. (In this case, stallion and giant cat.) Animals must be prettier, smarter, and more useful than anyone else
...more
Melissa McShane
Re-read 6/26/17: See below, plus the audiobook version was really good despite a couple of odd mispronunciations by the reader. There is so much I didn't get about the relationship between Harry and Corlath (from the initial abduction on) when I was young that I appreciate better now.

Read 6/23/13: Back when I was twelve or thirteen and tearing through the YA shelves at the library, I picked this book up and immediately set it aside because the first paragraph seemed boring. I did tha
...more
Debbie
Mar 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Effusion warning: the following is not a review - it's more like a wordy shrine to Robin McKinley.

This is one of my favorite books of all time. One of the many reasons is that I discovered it all by myself (well, not quite by myself; a librarian put it on the shelf where I could find it - thank you, librarian!).

I was browsing the shelves at the Lee Library, and I think it was the title that first caught my attention. If I remember correctly, I took it down and flipped through it. I w
...more
Jessica
Also lots of love. So much love. I loved Aerin's story, and I think The Hero and the Crown is very complete, but I would happily read more books about Harry and Corlath, I really, really would!
C.E. Murphy
Feb 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had a hard time reading this for purely physical reason: my copy of THE BLUE SWORD is very probably 30 years old, and the fragile yellowed pages are losing their tenuous grip on the broken spine. I was afraid it would fall apart in my hands, and thus was weirdly careful with not only the book but the reading of it. I believe I'll seek out Robin McKinley at the nearest possible opportunity, ask her to sign my beloved and battered book, and retire it with honors alongside my equally ancient and ...more
Carrie Vaughn
Jan 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Probably my favorite book. This is coming with me to my desert island.
Charlotte
This is colonialist, white savior wish fulfillment to a tee. My Fantasy Robins have been letting me down lately WHYYY.
Terence
Oct 16, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Terence by: GR Friends' reviews
I missed my “Robin McKinley window” by about thirty years. If I had had the good fortune to come across this novel when I was fourteen, I’m sure I would have sought out more of her work and enjoyed them to the same extent as I enjoyed authors such as Andre Norton or Lloyd Alexander (whom I did have the luck to meet around this time in my life). As it happens, I’m too experienced a reader (and, mayhap, too cynical?) to fully appreciate the spirit in which the book is written. There were too many niggling “off” thi ...more
Melody
Oct 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. With all my heart. It starts with a girl who doesn't quite fit, then builds from there. There are demons and heroes and enchanted swords and true love. Also legends and big loving cats and semi-supernatural archers. Did I mention evil? Oh, and kings and proto-British cavalry? And horses from the fever-dreams of Alec Ramsey! Palatial tents. The best kinds of friendship, the kinds which transcend rank and sex and age.

The plot is classic, the story arc undeniably sati
...more
Amy
2019 Review
My earlier review describes this book as a security blanket. I find the analogy remains apt. The first few words of The Blue Sword (quoted below) still relax me like almost nothing else. I enter a little bubble of contentment just thinking about them.
I know this world. I know these words.
But like a favored blanket from my childhood, I no longer need this book. The sentences remain familiar and comforting. I can trace the weave of the words, the faded colors, and the frayed edges. I feel a b
...more
Sarah
Sep 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
I'm on the fence about this book :) It had some major flaws, mostly that it was so focused on the main story that it lacked some depth. The character gets abducted and becomes this warrior with little passing thought to what she's actually experiencing. She goes with the flow but doesn't really stop to question that flow. It's actually really weird. The Hillfolk appear to be a highly romanticized and idealized version of the Ottoman Turks, with the Outlanders appearing to be basically English, i ...more
Logan
Sep 22, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
My suspicion of all silver-medallion-marked books remains unshaken.

I really don't know what went wrong here. Clearly the main audience of this book (female) thinks it is a childhood classic. Therefore a) I must be the incorrect gender, b) missed the age window, c) was born in the incorrect era to enjoy it. It really, really makes me wonder if the people who love it were born in a certain period, are of a certain gender, and were a certain age when they first read it.

The s
...more
Brandi
Jul 07, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
2.5 Stars, but I rounded up because of the world building.

This is a story about a girl named Harry who goes to stay with a nice childless couple in a desert after the death of her father. Her brother is stationed at the little outpost there, and unlike most of the people, Harry finds that she really loves the desert. After hearing some rumors about the people who live in the Hills being magical, Harry chances across their king one day and everything changes. She is taken by the king and becomes
...more
Lindsay
Sep 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm actually rounding this up from what I expect would be a 3.5 star rating. The heroic story was great, with an excellent story of a newcomer to an exotic culture who adapts, then excels, complete with training montage and heroic battle. But this is on top of a really problematic setting that makes me reluctant to recommend it to people.

Angharad "Harry" Crewe's father passes away and she is sent from "Homeland" to her brother in colonial Daria on the borders of the northern desert power o
...more
Cassandra
Mar 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone.
Recommended to Cassandra by: John Wiswell
An amazing ride. Beautifully descriptive with plenty of action and magic, The Blue Sword has earned a place on my "books I read over and over again" shelf.

The Blue Sword I found most fascinating and enjoyable for its setting. It takes place over three locations: Home, Damar, and The Hills. Theses places put me in mind of England, Gibraltar, and Morocco for the transitions from cool and simple green lands filled with leaves and gentle horses into unknown deserts filled with magic and mystery. Truly,/>The
...more
Vicky
Aug 12, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult, fantasy
I think I liked this book better when I was a young adult. I enjoyed the story: a girl, going by the unusual nickname of Harry, gets kidnapped by natives (called Hillmen), learns their ways and effectively becomes a native, discovers she has magic, and becomes the key to saving her new people from the big, bad, nonhuman Northerners. It's a fun, if not totally original, adventure. And the writing is overall pretty good.

My biggest complaint was that there hardly seemed to be any confli
...more
Alissa
Apr 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-ebooks
3.5 stars. It is somewhat slow, there is a Chosen One and it's a bit predictable, a classic fantasy tale. Still the story flows beautifully and I liked it very much. The narration is in third person with occasional first person touches, and it adds a lot to the allure of the places described. The female lead reminded me a little of the one of Mordant's Need and that was a good thing. I flew through this book.

"She is a true friend, but a friend with thoughts of her own, and the thoughts of othe/>"She
...more
Susan
I love this book. I haven't read it for many years, but it called to me for a reread. Harry has come to Damar after her father's death to be with her brother. There is something about the land that draws her like nothing else ever has. When Corlath, king of the Hillfolk, comes to Istan to warn of a threat to all of them there is something about him that speaks to her also. After his warnings are ignored, Corlath leaves, but returns in the dark of night to steal Harry away, as his powers demand. ...more
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5,972 followers
Born in her mother's hometown of Warren, Ohio, Robin McKinley grew up an only child with a father in the United States Navy. She moved around frequently as a child and read copiously; she credits this background with the inspiration for her stories.

Her passion for reading was one of the most constant things in her childhood, so she began to remember events, places, and time periods by what books she read
...more

Other books in the series

Damar (2 books)
  • The Hero and the Crown (Damar, #2)
“[Harry] 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.” 219 likes
“...My friend, there are some things that I cannot tell you. Some I will tell you in time; some, others will tell you; some you may never know, or you may be the first to find the answers.” 143 likes
More quotes…