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Review: The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Cover of The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
4 Stars

Aerin is the first sol (think princess) and a bit of a disappointment to her people. With fair skin and red hair in a country of olive-skinned brunettes, it's obvious that she's not entirely Damarian. Rumor has it that her mother was a witch from the North who captured the king's heart with her magic. So Aerin's always stayed in the shadows. As she gets older, she starts to find her place in her father's court. She rescues his injured warhorse and goes to work fighting the little dragons that are dangerous pests in the countryside. And then one day a dragon awakens who isn't so little.

Man, this took me right back to my tween years. I can't begin to explain it because I've never read this book before, but it just had that '80s feel. It's a quest book with a strong female lead, short and to the point. The author isn't trying to get a movie deal or spread a plot thinly over a never-ending series. I did get worried about a love triangle at one point but hallelujah! We pretty much avoided it. It's just a good, solid story that I would have adored when I was about 12 or 13 and which I found entertaining and nostalgic today.

I liked Aerin and Tor and Talat and Luthe. I couldn't wait for Galanna to get her comeuppance. I was dying to know more about the world and especially about Aerin's mother. The book is complete as it is, but for all my complaints about book series, I am glad there's a sequel to The Hero and the Crown and that I already own it. I hope I get a few more answers.

I have no idea what anyone outside my 30-something bracket would think of this but if you're a fantasy reader in my age group, you definitely have to check it out.

Read an excerpt.

Find author Robin McKinley on her website, her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Buy The Hero and the Crown at

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

4 comments:

  1. I DID adore this book when I was 12 or 13. Because it is utterly awesome. I planned to name a daughter Aerin, despite not being a kid who ever thought about what to name children. And I also love The Blue Sword, which is awesome too.

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  2. I read this about 6 or 7 years ago and retained no memory of it what so ever! Weird...

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  3. I think I'll have to reread this book soon. Maybe I'll put it on my TBR list for winter. I loved it as a teen as well as The Blue Sword.

    It is true that these days YA fantasy (and dystopian fiction) tends to be written in trilogies. I think publishing houses are pushing for bankable books that can be turned into film franchises as well. Sad. I bet even YA fiction of the 90s would have a different feel. I do like series but not every story needs to be stretched out.

    I hope more teens discover this gem. I wonder what they'd think of it.

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  4. +JMJ+

    Coincidentally, I've just watched an 80s movie with magic and dragons: Dragonslayer! And I know what you mean about that "80s feel" and the wonderful integrity of a work that isn't self-consciously aspiring to a bigger franchise. =)

    The only Robin McKinley book I've read is Spindle's End. I found it beautifully written and creatively imagined . . . but it was also the denseness of her fictional world and of the language she used to describe it that made much of it feel like a slog. If you've also read it, Jen, how would you compare The Hero and the Crown to it?

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