I read and loved McKinley’s The Blue Sword when I was a teen, but had no idea there was a subsequently written prequel of sorts until a 2013 Pajiba thread in defense of adults reading YA. Still one of my favorite comment threads. So many good recommendations. After I spent well over a year not getting around to picking up this book I was dying to read (because I do that), the lovely Mrs. Smith included it in my CBR Gift Exchange box o’ goodies.
Having read The Blue Sword, I knew Aerin is revered as a hero of Damar, returner of the Hero’s Crown and slayer of dragons. Her acceptance of Harry in a shared vision is a turning point in Harry’s story. The problem with prequels is that we know something about how the story ends. Fortunately, McKinley had made only a bare sketch of Aerin.
Like Harry, Aerin doesn’t quite fit in. She doesn’t look like everyone else, and her mother, who died in childbirth, is rumored to have been a witch from the North. Aerin is mostly left to her own devices as she grows. Her father loves her, but as King, has little time for her. I could have done without the mean girl subplot which ultimately meant nothing and went nowhere. But I otherwise enjoyed reading about Aerin honing herself and her lamed warhorse into a dragon slayer. She makes friends along the way, but in her greatest battle, she fights alone.
There is a lot of mystery still left to Aerin between The Hero and The Crown and The Blue Sword. I love that McKinley has left plenty of room to imagine what you will about the rest of Aerin, Tor and Luthe’s lives.