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The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
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The Blue Sword (1982)

by Robin McKinley

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Damar (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,5911081,045 (4.34)412
  1. 70
    Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce (lquilter)
    lquilter: Readers of The Blue Sword by McKinley should also enjoy Tamora Pierce's various Tortall adventures, among which, "Alanna: The First Adventure" (the first volume of the "Lioness Quartet"), is the first and best-known, but all of them are worthwhile.
  2. 71
    Graceling by Kristin Cashore (foggidawn, Aerrin99)
    Aerrin99: For stories that feature interesting and strong woman matched with equally interesting and strong men, with a dash of danger, adventure, and magic tossed in, try either of these books!
  3. 51
    Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith (shoujo85)
  4. 51
    The Darkangel by Meredith Ann Pierce (Jenson_AKA_DL)
  5. 40
    Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce (TomWaitsTables)
  6. 52
    Sunshine by Robin McKinley (lavender81)
    lavender81: A young adult meets a vampire ... a magical tale!
  7. 31
    The Books of Great Alta: 'Sister Light, Sister Dark' and 'White Jenna' by Jane Yolen (lquilter)
    lquilter: Both McKinley's "The Blue Sword" and Yolen's "Sister Light, Sister Dark" / "White Jenna" feature young adult women, who have warrior attributes.
  8. 31
    Warprize by Elizabeth Vaughan (flemmily)
    flemmily: Warprize is simpler than The Blue Sword, and the world is not quite as interesting as the unique and compelling Damar. But both books tell the story of a girl carried away by a barbarian culture.
  9. 11
    Jaran by Kate Elliott (PhoenixFalls)
  10. 13
    The Crown of Dalemark by Diana Wynne Jones (LiddyGally)
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» See also 412 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 108 (next | show all)
The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley is set in the same world as The Hero and the Crown, which I enjoyed when I read it a couple of years ago. It's been on my wishlist for a really long time, and I decided to give in and buy myself a copy. Unfortunately, I didn't end up enjoying it as much.

The Blue Sword features Angharad "Harry" Crewe, a quasi-British ("Homelander") impoverished noblewoman who finds herself living in a fort town on the edge of the Homelander empire after the death of her parents. Although her life is pretty boring, she realises she has come to love the harsh lands of her new home. She's interested in the native (Damarian/Hillfolk) culture and language, but everyone around her considers it irrelevant as they are considered barbarians, so she doesn't learn much about them.

Then, she catches the eye of the king of the Damarians, and he is compelled by his magic to kidnap her. She turns out to be the key to saving both Damar and her own people from the real barbarians - the Northerners, that are descended from demons.

I can't review this book without spoilers, so my apologies.

*** WARNING: EXTENSIVE SPOILERS FROM HERE ONWARDS ***

I had a pretty hard time with this book for a few different reasons.

THE PROTAGONIST
Generally I love quiet-but-awesome characters, but I was never really able to connect with Harry. She just seemed mostly passive, but stubborn whenever the plot needed her to be. For example, when she's kidnapped, she is a bit scared in the beginning, but doesn't actually react to it that much, even though she has no idea what the Damarians want, and she can't speak their language. She doesn't even have a single thought of escape - it's almost like she's an observer in her own life. But then she gets utterly convinced that she needs to fight for Damar and is incredibly passionate about that. It just doesn't seem like the same person - unless she feels utterly useless at home and is just glad that someone wants her, and is willing to do whatever she needs to do to hold on to that. But that's not a very pleasant or heroic characterisation. In any case, even if Harry is a perfectly likeable person, it didn't show through in the book for me.

THE MARY SUE
In The Inheritance: And Other Stories, Robin Hobb says that in the worst of [fantasy] stories, the magic and the mantle of being a hero is bestowed without effort by or cost to the protagonist. I tend to agree with her, and this is a large part of why I didn't like the story of The Blue Sword. Harry is unremarkable (she's a bit withdrawn and cold) when she's kidnapped, but then reveals herself to have incredibly strong magic, learns the Damarian language to fluency in a couple of weeks, masters the native fighting skills and beats every single warrior in the trials with six weeks of practice, wields a mythical sword that is the most treasured relic of the Damarians, single handedly defeats the enemy by dropping a mountain on them, discovers the long lost healing uses of her magic, marries the king, and commences diplomatic relations between the Homelanders and the Damarians. All in about 200 pages. What does she give up to achieve this? Nothing.

THE CULTURAL DYNAMICS
At first glance, this book seems to be about subverting the colonial idea that the Damarian "natives" were barbaric and uncivilised, by having a protagonist that has "gone native" by fighting for Damar and choosing to settle there and adopt their culture. But the Damarian civilisation regards another one (the Northerners) as similarly barbaric and uncivilised, and that is never questioned, by Harry or anyone else. Instead, everyone agrees that they are utter evil and must be vanquished - we don't even meet a single Northerner in the book, except in battle. This really annoyed me, and I'm even totally ignoring the "native civilisation needs a white coloniser girl to come save them" issue.

I understand that this is a young adult book and isn't as complex as general fantasy, but this is still no excuse. ( )
1 vote kgodey | Apr 11, 2017 |
It's funny, this book followed so many classic formulas that I knew what was going to happen long before it did, and yet I enjoyed reading it. The setting is vivid and unexpected and I look forward to reading The Hero and the Crown to find out more about it. The Hill People are not given the usual "noble savage" treatment, thank goodness, and the heroine is neither a damsel in distress or a brash, bold tomboy. The addition of big cats as companions was a big plus for me. A bit more explanation about the enemy, what they are, and how they came to be, would have been nice. Because there was overall so little detail about the Northerners, the epic battle didn't feel very epic to me.
So, while it's not perfect, this is definitely one I'll be getting my daughter to read when she's old enough. ( )
  aurelas | Dec 23, 2016 |
Clunky. Starts out as Kipling-lite, with a young woman travelling to the far flung outpost of a mighty empire, where she ends up dancing with young officers on station. Then she goes native, almost without noticing. Throughout the second half characters speak at great length, and pompously (occasionally jocularly), about nothing. Even in the direst situations, they never seem to have any urge to get down to business.

What this book does offer is lifestyle porn. First, our heroine lives the Kipling life, then she lives a thrilling nomadic existence in tents and the occasional castle, waited on by many servants. She also learns to ride an excellent horse without a bridle and only the most rudimentary saddle and get to take performance-enhancing drugs before an athletic competition. ( )
  themulhern | Sep 23, 2016 |
This is an old friend. I've worn out a couple paperback copies. ( )
  MuranoBlue | Sep 11, 2016 |
Review to come... ( )
  JSilverwood | Aug 27, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 108 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robin McKinleyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Craig, DanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reinert, KirkCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thorn, LoriCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Warren, DianeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
To Danny and Peachey, who first lead me to Damar
First words
She scowled at her glass of orange juice.
Quotations
[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.
The man's eyes were yellow as gold, the hot liquid gold in a smelter's furnace. Harry found it suddenly difficult to breathe, and understood the expression on Dedham's face; she almost staggered. Her hand tightened on the bridle, and the pony dropped its head and mouthed the bit uncomfortably. The heat was incredible. It was as though a thousand desert suns beat down on her. Magic? she thought from inside the thunder. Is this what magic is? I come from a cold country, where the witches live in cool green forests. What am I doing here? (p. 32)
"You have already begun to see the hardness of the choices that you will soon be forced to make; and the choosing will not be any easier for your not knowing why you must choose. Take strength from your own purpose, for you will know what you must do, if you let yourself; trust your horse and the cat that follows you, for there are none better than they, and they love you.. And trust the Lady Aerin, who visits you for your reassurance, whether you believe it at present or not; and trust your friendships. Friends you will have need of, for in you two worlds meet. There is no one on both sides with you, so you must learn to take your own counsel; and not to fear what is strange, if you know it also to be true. It is not an enviable position, being a bridge, especially a bridge with visions." [Luthe speaks, p. 164]
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0441068804, Mass Market Paperback)

Harry Crewe is an orphan girl who comes to live in Damar, the desert country shared by the Homelanders and the secretive, magical Hillfolk. Her life is quiet and ordinary-until the night she is kidnapped by Corlath, the Hillfolk King, who takes her deep into the desert. She does not know the Hillfolk language; she does not know why she has been chosen. But Corlath does. Harry is to be trained in the arts of war until she is a match for any of his men. Does she have the courage to accept her true fate?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:13 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Harry, bored with her sheltered life in the remote orange-growing colony of Daria, discovers magic in herself when she is kidnapped by a native king with mysterious powers.

» see all 2 descriptions

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