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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Recommended: The Blue Sword (Robin McKinley)

Angharad -- Harry -- is sent to an outpust on the Darian continent, a young woman who never really fit back in the Homeland, but who is lost among her new family and friends.

Harry is filled with the loneliness of youth. Is it surprising, then, that when she is kidnapped by the impetuous native king, Corlath, Harry is not really upset? In time she learns the customs of the Damarians, their language, learns to ride their horses, and even wields her sword in their defence.

A troll-king, Thurra, has raised an army of nightmares to conquer the native country of Damar. Corlath must rely on Harry to bridge the mistrust between the Damarians and the hapless Homelanders to defend both countries.

The feel of this story is wonderful. The Homeland, the outpost on the Darian continent... surely this is reminiscent of colonial India? But then the Victorian flavour is mixed with the nomadism of the Damarians, and here we surely feel an Arabic influence. Kipling meets Lawrence of Arabia, perhaps (to inappropriately mix fiction with history).

Better than even the feel of the story is the love for the desert. Harsh, stark, but beautiful -- even a kind of emptiness can be welcoming. The descriptions are wonderfully genuine; Damar is a land that must be real, and we too could ride in the desert with Corlath and the other heroes of Damar.

(A little nit-picking. I just saw on that the current book cover looks like a cross between Black Beauty and some torrid romance novel. Oh, puh-lease!)


Eugenie said...

I just read this book a few weeks ago, and it was a very quick and enjoyable read! I do agree the cover was a little weird though...

Mister Troll said...

Thanks for leaving a message!

A little additional research found the hardcover edition was really what I remembered originally reading.

The cover art suits.