The Blue Sword – by Robin McKinley
I have to admit, I came close to giving up on this one early on. It was slow to start, and there was a lot of background information and nothing happening, and I wasn’t terribly interested. But I scanned through the reviews on Goodreads and nearly all of them were about how this is the greatest fantasy novel ever, and I thought, “Well, I’ll try to push on through until the plot starts moving.” I did, and the plot did pick up and I made it through, and while it didn’t ever really grip me, it was an enjoyable story.
After her father dies, Harry Crewe moves to the occupied foreign land of Damar where her brother is stationed. Tensions are high between her people and the Hillfolk – the natives of Damar – but a greater threat approaches from the north. When the Hillfolk king, Corlath, asks the Harry’s people for help in defending the country, they refuse to take the threat seriously, and as a result, Harry is kidnapped and taken to the king’s camp to be trained to fight in his army. Though she doesn’t understand why or how, her own destiny seems to be entangled with that of the Hillfolk, and she may be the necessary bridge linking two clashing cultures.
The Blue Sword has all the hallmarks of classic, epic fantasy and the land and culture of Damar are richly detailed and complete. I liked Harry as a character and a heroine – headstrong and capable, though unsure of her role – but I thought the romance aspect left a little to be desired. I also take some issue with the concept that all of the Northerners are evil, although I suppose it would take a whole other book for that issue to be dealt with. I may someday give the prequel a try, but I’m not exactly rushing to get my hands on it. I guess I just prefer a faster-paced contemporary story.