Fantasy Review: ‘The Blue Sword’ by Robin McKinley

Perfectly serviceable wish fulfillment fantasy. The Blue Sword is best compared to Star The Blue Sword (Damar, #2)Wars in that a young person is taken to a strange place, taught to use a style of magic they never knew they had, and then beat the evil bad guys with one huge explosion (oops, spoiler warning). There are a couple of differences of course. Instead of an annoying whiny farmboy the hero of destiny is a capable young woman called Harry. And instead of starting her journey by choice Harry is kidnapped in the night.

The second of a series (a fact I didn’t realize until after I had finished the book) The Blue Sword works perfectly fine as a standalone. The allusions to the first book work just as well as new visions for Harry to decipher, nothing is lost by not knowing previous events.

Harry joins her brother in a border outpost to start the book. She is bored by civilized life, longs to ride horses in the mountains, and is eventually stolen away in the night by Corlath, king of the mountain folk. There she learns she has a destiny, and a strong sort of magic, and a way with horses and giant hunting cats that makes others shake their head in amazement. She gets over being kidnapped in no time and commits to learning how to ride and fight like the mountain folk do. After wowing everyone with her new skills (and new magic) she learns that there is no time to celebrate for it is time to ride to war against and evil, twisted, almost human army (orcs?) that has a leader with magic that may be more powerful than that she shares with her new king.

Harry is a great character; I have to give that to the book. Stockholm syndrome aside she appraises the situation she finds herself in and makes the best of it from the start. Her magic gives her an EZ mode to play with but she still works hard and uses her charisma to actually become a leader. And she has to be good to carry this book for the first eighty percent of it is all set up for one fast and furious battle that ends with a whimper.

Probably best saved for reading slumps between long epics but it was worth reading. It makes up for its cheesiness with a bit of heart, and for every stock character placed to be a prop there is another that forces a reader to identify with them. Nothing wrong with wish fulfillment fantasies, I would have never fallen in love with Star Wars if I didn’t want to be a jedi. No doubt had I read this in my younger years it would be holding a place in my memory along with Pern and that space saga I keep comparing The Blue Sword to.

3 Stars.

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