by Robin McKinley
“Royalty isn’t allowed to hide – at least not once it has declared itself.”
- page 94
Title: The Hero and the Crown
Author: Robin McKinley
Published By: Open Road Media Teen & Tween
Book: #1 of Damar
Genre: High Fantasy
Rating: 4 Voodoos
In Robin McKinley’s Newbery Medal–winning novel, an outcast princess must earn her birthright as a hero of the realm
Aerin is an outcast in her own father’s court, daughter of the foreign woman who, it was rumoured, was a witch, and enchanted the king to marry her.
She makes friends with her father’s lame, retired warhorse, Talat, and discovers an old, overlooked, and dangerously imprecise recipe for dragon-fire-proof ointment in a dusty corner of her father’s library. Two years, many canter circles to the left to strengthen Talat’s weak leg, and many burnt twigs (and a few fingers) secretly experimenting with the ointment recipe later, Aerin is present when someone comes from an outlying village to report a marauding dragon to the king. Aerin slips off alone to fetch her horse, her sword, and her fireproof ointment . . .
But modern dragons, while formidable opponents fully capable of killing a human being, are small and accounted vermin. There is no honor in killing dragons. The great dragons are a tale out of ancient history.
That is, until the day that the king is riding out at the head of an army. A weary man on an exhausted horse staggers into the courtyard where the king’s troop is assembled: “The Black Dragon has come . . . Maur, who has not been seen for generations, the last of the great dragons, great as a mountain. Maur has awakened.”
I’ve have book 2 on my shelf for some time now and the time has come to read it, but as I have a terrible need to read/watch things in the right order this one had to be read first, even though it’s a prequel and sometimes that’s a bad idea. Obviously I won’t know if this was a bad idea until I finish book 2, but a few people about the place have recommended that book 1 is to be read first and everything will make sense, which is excellent news, ’cause that’s what I’ve done…
I found the first part of this book highly confusing to say the least. We jump about a bit at the start with flashbacks within flashbacks that give us the backstory we need but do it by having Aerin remembering past events and it’s not unless you pay attention that you realise when each bit is set. The story seems to start just before the man reports Maur has awakened, but then we are taken through all that Aerin went through to take her to this point. Once I knew what was happening with this however, it was easier to understand and there are no more flashbacks.
I did like the character development for Aerin. She started off unsure of herself and uncomfortable in her own skin and by the end she was sure and content. This is not in first person so we don’t see exactly how much we change, but we basically follow only her so we do see what she goes through. The book does sort of end a little suddenly I felt though. I was merrily reading along, turned the page and there was the “About the Author” page, I was a little surprised.
We don’t see much of anyone else for me to solidly choose a favourite, but I rather enjoyed the horse Talat and the cat king, but then I may have been bias. I feel with a little more information I’d have liked Tor more, but he didn’t seem quite real. In fact the whole story sort of seemed a little dream like, certainly after her battle with the dragon and what that lead to. But perhaps this story is a legend in the next book, like in Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series. One of the trilogies and one of the stand-alones feature people who are legends in the first books written in the series which is pretty amazing. I can’t wait to find out if that’s the case here too.