It is the story of an eager orphan girl, Angharad Crewe (also called Harry), who lives in an imaginary land called Homeland. Harry suffers from a vague restlessness, a longing for adventure that she tells herself is a result of reading too many novels when she was a small child. As she grows up, and particularly after her mother dies, she learns to ignore that restlessness. But later, when she enters a different part of her life, she goes on adventures and learns to fight like a warrior. This story is about Harry’s wisdom, and her adventure starts when she is kidnapped and taken to a place called Damar.
An interesting part of the book is the description of the land of Damar. Harry enters Damar as a foreigner, so we get to experience a set of different traditions and a contrasting culture along with her. Harry’s interaction with Damar as a newcomer helps establish a sense of place. While I was reading about the way Harry experiences Damar, I felt like I was experiencing an island far away from my country! One can imagine Damar existing in the real world as a place with its own particular culture.
The Blue Sword was written in 1982, but still gave me thrills during every chapter, and I was always wondering what would happen next. No wonder it won the Newbery Honor Award and was named the ALA Best Book for Young Adults that year. The sophisticated story, along with its masterful narrative structure, kept me engrossed until the very last word. It is a book I will take along at every change of address so I can always laugh with Harry.
Robin McKinley’s writings present young women in very empowering roles. Her main characters are girls who have learned to beat the odds and are inspiring. In her novels, like Beauty, Sunshine, and Chalice, the stories revolve around ambitious young women who stand up for themselves. McKinley is a writer who uses fantasy and fiction to empower girls. The heroines of McKinley’s book reflect the qualities she saw in herself as a young woman, and therefore her stories revolve around the values of loyalty, honor, and faithfulness. These attributes are portrayed in a non-moralizing and captivating way. The female characters are usually powerful, honorable, and loyal to their goals.
Every girl should read McKinley’s novels because her heroines are not “damsels in distress.” Rather, she portrays them as girls who do not depend on a man to rescue them. These girls have a sense of self-worth. They value relationships as a matter of mutual respect and love, not as fairy tales in which young girls should just keep awaiting Prince Charming. Today, when women are expected to play various roles, these stories are imperative to help girls understand their own worth and be able to do things on their own without depending on others.
Usually teenagers feel like they are going through a lot. Only a few can pack their problems and continue their journey of life. So, to help themselves, they should look to role models or someone they can be inspired by. We all read about super-MAN, spider-MAN or bat-MAN, so we girls need some more super-WOMEN to help us out. McKinley conveys this strong message without making the story into a boring speech by incorporating passion, desire, and fantasy.
I strongly recommend that girls around 15 years old read this novel and others by McKinley, as it’s high time for girls to be our own heroes. Boys might also enjoy the book. It’s natural that a female hero will have more impact on girls, but heroes are for everyone, and everyone can learn from them.
The Blue Sword differs from other young adult fantasy we read these days with its appealing use of language. I give this book a rating of five stars. It is a compelling read with an engaging narrative as Harry is taken away from her boring life to an exciting adventure. When I was done with the story, I was happy because the whole time I felt transported from my boring life, too. It is unbelievable how the adventures of a fictional character can make you feel so energetic, thanks to the magic of the author’s storytelling. This is the first time I read a book by Robin McKinley and she is now my favorite author — I am not exaggerating!
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