Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Hero and The Crown (Damar #1) by Robin McKinley | Fantasy Book Review

Mulluane | Tuesday, November 18, 2014 | 2 Comments so far

eBook Release Day Review!

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 rumored, 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.”

*Blurb source* Open Road Media
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5 Star Review of The Hero and The Crown by Robin McKinley
| Source: Publisher
| Author: Robin McKinley
| Series: Damar (Book 1)
| Genre: Heroic Fantasy
| Content: Dragons, Heroine, Adventure
| ISBN-10: 0441328091
| ISBN-13: 9780441328093
| Publisher: Open Road Media Teen/Tween (November 18, 2014) eBook edition
| Paperback: 244 pages
| Rating: 5/5 Stars
| Affiliate Links:
Book Depository Affiliate LinkKindle Affiliate Link
The Hero and the Crown (Damar, #1)

♥ Mini Review ♥
Imagine a lonely young princess, pariah not because of who she is, but because of who she was born to. Now imagine an old warhorse, favorite of the King, put out to pasture while still in his prime because of an injury. Now combine the two, throw in a war, some dragons, plus an understanding father and you end up with a timeless classic.

Fantasy Book Review by Mulluane

♦ The Story. This story follows the life of Aerin, a lonely young girl and second heir to the throne of Damar. Almost immediately you feel a connection with her plight. I doubt there are too many of us who haven't felt -- at some point in our lives -- like we were on the outside looking in. For some of us those occurrences were infrequent, for others, a way of life. Either way you know on a deep level exactly what this child is dealing with and you admire her courage and patience as she endures living in the shadows. But Aerin has accepted her lot in life and instead of being a helpless victim, she grabs the reins and decides to make her own destiny.

It comes as no surprise that she eventually makes her way into the paddock of her father's lame warhorse Talat. Talat is, in his own way, just as lonely as Aerin, and feeling just as useless. (A state of affairs he doesn't handle nearly as well as Aerin.) The cantankerous old horse and the sweet young heir will become inseparable friends and may finally find acceptance together.

There are two secondary characters I want to mention because they add so much to the core of the story. 

First is Tor. Her male counterpart and the first heir. He is her only real friend and the type of friend we all wished for as kids. He teaches her what little she knows about fighting, even though few women, if any, are warriors. He listens, really listens, when she talks. He supports even when he disagrees with her course. Unfortunately, he is often too busy being the crown prince to spend much time with her.

Second is her father, the king. He is even busier than Tor but it is obvious that he both supports and understands his daughter, primarily from behind the scenes. He lets her forge her own path, realizing that it will be an unorthodox one. Again the type of person that we as kids wanted for our dad.

See where all this is going? This book became such a lifelong favorite of so many because it spoke to the heart's deepest desires.  It teaches that all things are possible with a little work, a little love and a whole lot of perseverance. Oh and it has dragons. That never hurts.

♦ My Thoughts. You know those books? The ones everybody has read but you? The words, "OMG! You haven't read The Hero and The Crown!!!" echoing in your ears?" Yeah, this is that book and I can't understand exactly how I ended up missing it in my youth, but I did. 

Imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered that Open Road Media was converting it into an ebook format.  I don't normally request books for review but I jumped all over this one. And it is indeed as priceless as I had heard.

Hero and Crown is the type of book I would've loved as a kid and I still identify with as an adult! via @mulluane

♦ What I Liked.  This tale is a classic in every way. A strong female lead whose best friend is an old, lame warhorse. Dragons to fight. A country to save. A hint of a budding romance but not one that has any sort of main focus. An understanding if beleaguered father. A drive to succeed despite considerable obstacles.

I also enjoyed the overall lack of "magic equals easy answers." 

There is magic. All of the royal family except for Aerin has some minor degree of it, but its use is normally mundane. Break a dish and repair it type magic. Definitely nothing on the level of Gandalf waving his hand and whole armies fall over. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it is nice when hard work trumps waving an arm. And I don't want to give the wrong impression. There is plenty of powerful magic towards the end of the story. You might argue that it is a bit convenient at the time but the struggle to reach it creates a balance and I still would not call it an easy answer.

Best of all, the book's lessons are subtle but relevant for all ages tween to adult. It took me back to a time when I'd sit in the arms of a crabapple tree, book in hand and the world would simply fade away.

♦ What I Didn't Like. There is a bit of time jumping going on in this book that can, if you are not paying attention, throw you off stride. The story within this story is the key tale. We start out knowing that certain things have happened. What we don't know is how or when or why. That is where the time jumps come in. We get transported back into Aerin's past to get answers to those questions.

Now the only problem with this is that sometimes you crinkled your brow and wonder just how certain things came about, well before the next regression. This type of writing can often lead to skipping ahead because the answer becomes more important than the present events.

The good news is twofold. On the one hand, the way the 2 halves of the story fit together is seamless. Didn't help the need for answers, but you were never jarred by the change in time. The other good thing is that this -- for me -- was an ebook. That meant I couldn't just stick my thumb in the pages while I scanned ahead looking for answers. Sigh. I had to read it in order from start to finish. 

You! Yeah you over there! Stop laughing... You know you've done it too... (chuckles) 

Eventually, the backstory catches up with the present and then the book really starts flying by.

♦ Conclusion. Doesn't matter whether you want to visit an old friend or discover a new one, I highly recommend this book. Only thing I regret is that I didn't discover it back when I was fighting my own dragons.

Ratings, Reviews, Similar Reads, Buy Books, Affiliate Links

Librarything 4.27 / 5

Amazon: 4.5/5
(315 customer Reviews)

What Should I Read Next?
Kindle: The Hero and The Crown

Newbery Medal (1985) 

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award Nominee (1985)

Buy From: Book Depository

Robin KcKinley Quote
About the Author:

Photo of Author Robin McKinley | Source: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5339.Robin_McKinleyRobin McKinley is an American writer who has won many awards in the US, including the Newbery Medal for The Hero and the Crown, a Newbery Honor for The Blue Sword, and the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature for Sunshine.

She lives in Hampshire, England with her husband, author Peter Dickinson, two hellhounds nicknamed Chaos and Darkness, an 1897 Steinway upright named Rhodanthe, and increasing numbers of rose bushes wedged into three [sic] tiny gardens. The view out her office window is her change-ringing bell tower and in the next village over is a paragon among horses whom Robin is so fortunate as to have permission to ride. 

Robin McKinley on the Web: Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Blog ~ Forum
Already read the book? Please share your own opinion!

Fantasy Book Review of The Hero and The Crown by Robin McKinley
Reviewed by Mulluane on November 18, 2014
Rating: 5 of 5

Mulluane is a 55-year-old proud grandmother of 4, who is passionate about her pets, blogging, traditional fantasy, and tinkering with webdesign. She is obssesively photo shy but she uses an avatar that accurately represents her dreams. ♥ You can also find her on:

Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest
Dragons, Heroes and Wizards


  1. I tend to have an issue with time jumping - it can be done poorly so easily that it always gives me pause when I hear it mentioned in a review.

    1. Me too, which is why I put it in the "I didn't like" section. But honestly, the only time it really caught me offguard was the first time it jumped. I had to do a doubletake. "Whoa, what? Oh she is a kid now and we are going to learn what happened to the grumpy old warhorse. Cool." After that I was expecting it so they didn't throw me as badly as that original leap backwards.

      I found that I didn't mind it so much in this book. There are no cliffhanging chapters or switches in POV. It was 3rd person omni focused on Aerin throughout.

      Book was a breath of fresh air for me. I really enjoyed it.


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