By: Robin McKinley
Re-read Finished: 03.19.14
Jack thought, I am going to follow this child, to my death perhaps, but I am going to follow her, and be proud of the opportunity.
Recently orphaned, Harry comes to live at the edge of the desert where her brother is stationed at a military outpost. The nearby hills are inhabited by the mysterious Damarians – a once mighty nation, now greatly diminished and scattered. With threats pouring in from their enemies in the North, the Damarians are preparing to fight a war which they have no hope of winning. Their king, Corlath, knows they need Harry even if he doesn’t know why and steals her away from her new home. Given a place of honor among her captors, Harry finds a purpose for her life far beyond what she could have imagined.
I didn’t intend to read this book this year and certainly not at the time I did (in the middle of reading another book), but I picked it up at Half Price Books and couldn’t let it just sit on my shelf. Over a decade ago when I first checked this book out of the library, I hadn’t read many of McKinley’s works, but I had read The Hero and the Crown. Both are set in the same world, Damar, and even though I knew the stories would be completely separate, I was still disappointed in The Blue Sword. It went back to the library after only a couple chapters. The main character is from a completely different country and thus the opening chapters are not set in Damar. I had already fallen head over heels for Damar, so I think the new setting was too much for me to accept. There were a few other failed attempts to read it until I was finally able to pull myself further into the story. Once Harry got into Damar, I loved the book.
The writing is majestic – in true McKinley fashion – and I am grateful that I kept giving it a chance. My feelings toward the book are tainted by those initial failures, but with scattered re-reads I’ve been able to appreciate the book for its own merit. Reading it now that I’m older, I found that I identify with Harry much more and that I rather like the opening.
Granted, the story is inherently problematic, given that the main character is abducted and remains mostly unruffled by the whole thing. To give McKinley/Harry some credit, the Stockholm syndrome started taking effect a while before the kidnapping. Harry had already fallen in love with the land and — though she didn’t know it — had a connection with the people. Plus, she never quite felt like she belonged in the society she grew up in. Stockholm syndrome aside, Harry is a very worthy heroine and I am glad that I became reacquainted with her.