Monday, June 5, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: The Hero and the Crown

"They call you Witch's Daughter - and so you are, and more."
- Agsded addressing Aerin, "The Hero and the Crown"

The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley is a bit of an older book (1984) and one I recall from back then.  I had read the "Blue Sword" ages ago and this was it's prequel.  I actually liked this one better, though I am re-reading Blue Sword now.
The story centers on Aerin Sol, the princess and only daughter of the King of Damar.  Aerin, also known as Aerin Fire Hair and Aerin, Lady Dragon Killer (more on that) is shy, awkward and generally clumsy.  Pretty much the archetype of what would later become a trope of female characters in "Romantic Fantasy".  This story gets a huge pass because it helped establish this trope.
In Damar all those of royal blood have a "gift" or some magical power, Aerin's doesn't appear to have manifested cause some (but not her father or her cousin Tor) to suspect she is not really of royal blood. They called Witch Woman's Daughter since the suspect the queen's second wife of being a witch.
Aerin learns to move through life trying to be unnoticed, which is hard because of her fire-red hair (she claims it is orange) and the fact she is as tall as most men.  She hides away in books, where she happens on an ointment to protect one from the fire breath of dragons.  Dragons in this book are small things and are more annoyance than a threat.  So she imparts on a career of killing dragons.  A useful task but one with no honor. It also earns her no friends in court.

In her travels and quests she learns of a "Great Dragon" whom she later kills and is nearly killed in return. Hears the summons of a "not quite mortal" mage. Recovers two lost artifacts, the aforementioned Blue Sword and the Crown of Heroes.

The book, like the Blue Sword, starts out slow. But this one builds quickly.  Of course you know that Aerin will succeed since she is legendary in Blue Sword,  but that doesn't mean things will be easy for her.  I have to admit I forgot this when I was on the part where she was laying in a river with burns covering half her body.

The book is older and for a younger audience than me. But I am reminded that we still need more Aeirn Sols (and Hermoine Grangers) and fewer Bella Swans and Anastasia Steeles.

Robin McKinley can be found on the web at

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 14
Level: Mother
Witches in this book: Aerin's mother. Her uncle, Agsded and maybe Aerin is a witch too. Witches seem to have red-hair in this world.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: Half and half.
Best RPG to Emulate it: This one is easy. Blue Rose is the best. In fact this is one of the books most often mentioned as an inspiration for Blue Rose.
Use in WotWQ: I love the idea of historical legends being brought to life.  I might want to have the players start out by playing the Witch Queens first.


JB said...

I have blogged about McKinley's books on more than one occasion...namely that it would be decent fodder for Hollywood, if they weren't so busy recycling the same old, same old. The Blue Sword is actually on my book shelf as we speak, and I've been considering it for weeks as bedtime reading for my kids. However, their continued obsession with Nancy Drew (we're on our 6th or 7th of that series) means McKinley has yet to be opened. And I actually found The Hero and the Crown a little "dark" for their age range (3 and 6).

And speaking of films, I saw Wonder Woman this afternoon. Found it to be excellent (brought tears to my eyes).
: )

Timothy S. Brannan said...

I am re-reading Blue Sword now and flashing back to cold rainy winter days of 1982. It is a perfect bridge between the obviously children's reading fare of A Wrinkle in Time (which I should also re-read) and the Hobbit.

Wonder Woman is fantastic.