Well, they dont really write high fantasy as they used to, now do they? There has to be a reason that Robin McKinleys THE BLUE SWORD, first published in the 1980s, is still being widely read and adored, and that is because it is arguably the absolute best in its genre, an unmatched blend of strong characters, political intrigue, and quite simply the best damn fantasy world ever imagined and written.
Its a little strange for me to read THE BLUE SWORD for the first time, nearly ten years after I picked up The Hero and the Crown and read it to pieces for about four years straight, it having been my favorite book in middle school. THE BLUE SWORD was written before The Hero and the Crown. I can hardly wrap my mind around that! The depiction of the Damarian landscape is incredible: ranging from endless red deserts to the hidden valleys and villages within the mountains. Robin McKinleys language is not quite lyrical, per se, but there is a certain hypnotic rhythm that her descriptions possess. That, combined with the scope of the worldbuildingthe politics, myths, fashions, traditions, everyday dutiesis entrancing. McKinley inspires awe in readers.
Harry, of course, serves for many as the blueprint of the admirable fantasy heroine. True, at times it feels like the mysterious magic of Damar is carrying her along, instead of her leading it. But her magnanimity, her determination to succeed even as she does not completely understand whats happening to her, is inarguably admirable. Corlaths appeal, I think, comes less from his specific characteristics, and more from his inexplicable status as the archetypal complement to Harrys heroine role. However little or much we perceive of Harry and Corlaths personalities, beliefs, or desires, however, they are a pair for whom we feel absolute sympathy.
I have little more to say because I feel like this is one of those instances where the more I try to examine what made this book move me so, the less impressed I will be by it. So Ill just say that the scope of what it accomplishes is unparalleled, and if you read it at the right stage of lifesay, on the brink of adolescence, just when youre searching for a role modelthen THE BLUE SWORD will undoubtedly become your bible of sorts.