Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Review: The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

I know that it's been a while since I've posted. It's been crazy trying to get everything on my Christmas list done before the fam flies in for a visit. I actually finished my last book a couple days ago. Finally got some time to write about it...

Title: The Blue Sword

Author: Robin McKinley

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

Review: In The Blue Sword, young Harry Crewe is living with her new guardians in an outpost palace at the edge of the land of the Hillmen. Her life as an Outlander in this desert initially bores her, but a visit by the Hill-King and his Riders results in Harry being thrust into the Hillmen's world, where she not only adjusts, but thrives.

I have to admit that I had a lot of trouble getting through this book. It's not an easy page-turner, a la The Alchemyst or The Warrior Heir. The writing style is much less compelling. It's almost "quaint" in its execution, very pleasant, but also reserved. Even at points of the story as intense as fighting for one's life, the author does not veer from her matter-of-fact recounting of the events. That's not to say that she writes with no emotion; it's just subdued, as if McKinley is holding herself to some standard of propriety.

But although emotion is more of a background element in this book, it is the engrossing, detailed world that takes center stage. McKinley's description of Harry's surroundings, Hillmen traditions and legends are immersive. Both the Outlander and Hillmen worlds and cultures are familiar, as the author borrows from colonial and desert nomadic material to help build her realm. This backdrop serves to more easily introduce the reader to the very original characters, exotic creatures, and stories McKinley creates.

Overall, I can understand why this book has become a classic in the young adult fantasy realm. For me, it's a matter of personal taste in writing style, and The Blue Sword just happens to be of a writing voice that I don't particularly fancy.

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