28) The Hero and the Crown

By: Robin McKinley

Re-read Finished: 12.02.14

by Robin McKinley

She was wry and funny even when she could barely speak,
and loved best 
to find things to be enthusiastic about.

Aerin is the daughter of the king, yet she feels like an outsider in the land she loves. Her isolation is perpetuated by the rumor that her mother was a witchwoman from the land of demons, and Aerin’s own insufficiency in wielding the magic all royals possess. When Aerin discovers a recipe for a fire-repelling salve called kenet, she decides to take her future into her own hands by fighting dragons. This is not an honorable occupation for the daughter of a king — even a daughter of dubious origins — but with demon-induced trouble stirring, Aerin is exactly the hero her country needs.

I’ve mentioned this book several times, and now it finally gets a post of its own. This time through, I read it slowly and analytically, looking for just why I love it so much.

Here is my conclusion: this book is magic.

I can’t quite put it into words, but I do understand why it resonated with me when I first read it in eighth grade. I understand why it keeps drawing me back. I understand some of the ways it has influenced me, as a human and in my writing. And it has been very influential in ways both conscious and unconscious.

My devotion for this book is unwavering, but I struggle to put it into words. I’m reminded of a passage in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (my favorite of the Narnia series) where Lucy is sent to find a particular spell in the book of a feared magician. Among the many interesting things Lucy finds in the book, the most delightful is a story that quickly fades from her memory. Even though Lucy cannot remember the details of the story, she remembers the impression it made. The narrator concludes, “Ever since that day, what Lucy means by a good story is a story that reminds her of the forgotten story in the Magician’s Book.” The Hero and the Crown is what I would read in the Magician’s Book. It is, to me, the quintessential Robin McKinley with its non-traditional heroine, its exquisite language, and its captivating story. Aerin is the gold standard of leading ladies, and I must see something of Aerin in a female character if I am to support her (and I prefer to see something of Tor in the males). Everything I hope to see in a story — be it the most respected literary fiction or a baby’s board book — can be traced back to this book in some form.

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