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 beaten-up signed copy of DRAGONSONG.
The truth is, had discussion about HERO in my last Recent Reads post not pointed it out to me, it probably never would have occurred to me how passive a character Harry is. She is (in essence) The Chosen One, just as Garion is, and throughout the book, the story impels her forward rather than her own choices driving the story forward. The major break from that is of course her departure from Corlath’s army, but with how it’s written, even that is arguably her kelar forcing her rather than her own will.
It doesn’t matter. Not to me, anyway. THE BLUE SWORD is very close to my heart, because it’s one of the very first books–possibly the first book–I read with an awareness of genre, with an awareness that I was reading A Fantasy Novel. I first read it when I was ten, the year after it came out, as one of the books for Battle of the Books, and it utterly swept me away. I was in love with Harry, I was in love with Corlath, I was, dear God, in love with Tsornin.
And I still am. I was right, in re-reading HERO: Aerin is the stronger heroine, and HERO probably the stronger book. And indeed, upon re-read I discover that Harry’s big magic scene at the end of THE BLUE SWORD is acid-trippy as well, though not as mind-numbingly weird as Aerin’s. As an adult, it’s easier to admire Aerin’s stubbornness and the trials and tribulations she goes through to achieve her happy ending, and to appreciate that Harry essentially gets it all handed to her on a platter.
But when you’re ten and you’re caught up as Harry was, stranger in a strange land, but a land that speaks to you, and you are taken away to be important in that world…well. Yes. It’s ultimate wish-fulfillment, and McKinley has said as much about that book, but it’s okay. And I think that will never go away, so I think THE BLUE SWORD retains its place of preference in my heart. After all, a little wish fulfillment never hurt anybody. :)
And speaking of wish fulfillment, *God* I wish there were more Damar books. I know she doesn’t write sequels, I’ve known all her reason for twenty years, I respect them, I’m not pleading with her to write more, but *oh* how I wish there were more.