I had only read Deerskin by Robin McKinley previously, and I bought The Blue Sword because I liked her writing style and storytelling. It was a very good decision on my part, if I do say so myself.
Harry Crewe is an orphan of high standing who is sent, by her brother, to live in Damar, a desert country shared by the native Hillfolk and the Homelanders. Her life there is quiet, and somewhat dull, but she grows to love the land even so. Then, one night, she is taken from the home of her caretakers in the night, by Corlath, the Hillfolk King. She knows not his purpose, and neither does he. All he knows is he’ll need her in the war to come.
This book was a pleasure to read, but then, I didn’t expect anything less. I liked Deerskin well enough, but this book pulled on me in a way that one never really did.
Maybe it’s the setting. I love settings that aren’t just Ye Olde Fictional Medieval Society Somewhere in the West. And even though Harry – or Angharad – starts out in such a place, her adventures soon take her elsewhere. The Hillfolk were great, as individual people, but also as a culture.
The book itself starts off slow, but I have never minded slow burns, and I wasn’t about to start now. Once Corlath leaves the Homelander colony in anger and lays eyes on Harry for the first time, you could feel the threads of destiny started to sing. He’s a king, worried for his people, with powerful kelar (a.k.a. magic) at his disposal. And yet he is disturbed by the sight of this young woman, because his kelar is trying to tell him something about her.
Sometimes I found Harry to be a bit too passive, and other times she would get angry about things that she didn’t really need to get angry about, but that’s human behaviour for you, I guess. We don’t always think logically or act sound, but I think that if I were kidnapped I’d probably also try to go with the flow. You can’t run, you can’t hide, better make the most of it.
I was nervous when the war finally started, and the Northerners are a scary bunch even if you don’t actually see them all that much, or all that well. But their reputation precedes them, makes them into this scary mob. Also the fact that they apparently aren’t human helps.
Even though there were some negative points in this book (Harry being a white saviour for one), they didn’t bother me as much as it would usually have. Maybe because Harry actually stumbles a lot along the way. She knows very little of their world, of their culture and of their language, and she has to learn. She’s eager to learn as well, to belong with these people, instead of being above them. She has to work for it, and sure she has the kelar inside of her, but she doesn’t know how to control it or even wield it, and mostly someone else works through her.
So yeah, good book, kept me reading when I should be sleeping. And if that’s not a recommendation I don’t know what is.