The Blue Sword is a few months older than I am. The teens I work with are always wonderfully sweet and pretend that I’m younger than I actually am. However, they’re often focused on the new books coming out. The ones on the Goodreads lists that are marked “dying-to-read” or “get-hands-on-ASAP.” It’s always about the Next Big Thing. But what if the Next Big Thing in a teen reader’s life is a book that was written before she was born?
While everyone’s scrambling to find “the next Hunger Games” or “the next The Fault in Our Stars,” we, as librarians, must not forget the books that came before and made current literature possible. And honestly? Sometimes I prefer the older books. They’re not trying to one-up each other or drop the most amount of cultural references possible or become the next meme. The authors wrote them to write what they wanted to write.
One of the many great things about high fantasy is that it’s pretty much timeless. Aside from shifting viewpoints on things like diversity and women’s roles in the genre (but that’s a whole other post), fantasy doesn’t change much. It’s like a comfy sweater that you’ve had for ages, and you know that when you put it on, it’ll make you feel loved and calmed and serene.
Technically, The Blue Sword is the second chronological book in the Damar duology (the first one being The Hero and the Crown), but it was written first. It’s a story that follows a lot of archetypes, but McKinley has a graceful, engaging style and a real knack for writing animals (oh, for a horse like Tsornin!) that makes this book stand out.
The main character, Harry Crewe, is kidnapped by Corlath, king of the Hill-Folk, in order to bear Gonturan, the Blue Sword of legend. Unlike most of these situations, Corlath feels rotten about having to kidnap an innocent girl, but he’s compelled to do so by his kelar, or magic. Harry discovers, as she begins to train as a warrior, that she has kelar as well. Although she’s willing to learn about this people, the Damarians, Harry is stubborn and fierce and proud. So is Corlath. Teens looking for a romance in the classic “I hate you! I hate you! Wait, I love you!” style will adore this.
Tip for booktalking this: Just say that it’s about an orphan named Harry (not surnamed Potter!) who’s destined to lead an epic battle against evil with the aid of a magical sword and some seriously kick-butt warriors. Then hand it to a boy. Remember, there are no such things as “girl books” and “boy books.”