Recent Reads: The Blue Sword

The Blue Sword, Robin McKinley

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.


  1. Were you in Anchorage at that time? I did Battle of the Books that same year!! Abbott Loop elementary. I loved TBS then (and now), but I missed a question about it…something about when she was on the boat (seriously? they asked a question about the boat?).

  2. Hah! No, I was in North Kenai. We came in 2nd in State that year (and won the next year. I was SO PISSED about coming in second, because the question we lost on was one that *could* have had an answer from two different books, and I chose the wrong one…) :)

    I *loved* Battle of the Books. I think it’s so awesome.

  3. The Blue Sword…….I’d never noticed how passive Harry is either (after many, MANY reads), but I love her anger in key moments when the lack of choice in her life gets to be too much. I find that BLUE wraps up more satisfyingly than HERO, so even though I like Aerin and her pre-acid-trip-magic moments more than Harry’s corresponding experiences, I rank BLUE higher on my list of all-time fav books than HERO. The end of HERO still bewilders and befuddles me and isn’t quite as “happy” as I’d like it to be.(And just to interrupt myself, Aerin’s exploits with her vain cousin still crack me up!) BLUE also has the distinction of containing my favorite quotable quote from a book: “It’s been a bit hard to determine which dragon a solitary St. George should to take on, when there seem to be dragons everywhere.” Don’t know why it appeals to me so much, it just does. With, in all fairness, “All I’ll say is, you know how they say old dogs can’t learn new tricks? Turns out old dogs have some pretty good tricks of their own” from “Banshee Cries” as a close second. Not to be a suck up or anything. Really. I’m not! I just like sly humor – she says defensively, with a faintly embarassed squirm and a slight blush…

    1. *laughs helplessly* The line that’s always stuck with me is, “We cling to you like leeches.” I use that all the time. :)

      *laughs more & hugs* No need to be defensive! I’m glad you like the line! :) <3

  4. Yeah, the leeches line is rather enjoyable! Heck, Jack is just an awesome character all around…definitely the comic relief of BLUE, given the number of great lines he throws about.

    Thanks! I try very hard not to be a gushing idiot, but sometimes things just slip out. If I were 10 years younger, that would have been a raging inferno of facial heat instead of a slight blush, so I figure I’m making progress in terms of subduing my uncool inner groupie (as opposed to the cool inner groupie, who is much more laid back in her interactions). :o)

    I use that particular line when I find myself telling someone of the coolness that is all things Joanne.

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