Robin McKinley is an absolute master of old school YA Fantasy. Blue Sword was published in 1982 and is a perfect example of the beauty of old YA. The simple elegance of language that is used in this book is such a wonderful throwback to descriptive prose, that to some extent has been lost in new age YA. With that said, I in no way intend to stomp all over new YA, because let’s face it, new YA is kick ass. But Blue Sword is something else altogether, and I mean that in only the best ways possible.
McKinley paints everything with a fine tipped brush and when she needs to switch perspectives for just a second, it feels as if you, the reader, is sitting behind a skilled cameraman who swivels you delicately to the side so you can catch a glimpse of what it is that the author desires you to see before you are expertly brought back to Harry. This is all accomplished without making you feel disoriented in the least bit.
Such POV hoping, as I like to call it, is something that I find truly fascinating as I have seen this in many other books and find that not many authors can accomplish this feat quite so marvelously. Rather, I’ve found that the first time the third person omniscient narration hops for the first time, it oftentimes feels too abrupt and leaves me feeling as if I had missed some sort of cue that this was going to happen. Typically, when I go back and see that I did not in fact miss something, I’ll sigh and resolve to deal with it.
But McKinley doesn’t do this at all. Instead, she sets up for herself this sort of quick swiveling of POVs early on within the first few pages so that when the omniscient voice hops, the reader rather expects it and is in no way confused by what is happening. She does this so effortlessly it makes me downright envious.
I haven’t read YA published in the 80s in a while, so my memory fails me, but I was honestly expecting this book to be paced much slower than it was. In some ways it wasn’t as fast paced as I would hoped it to be, but when the action comes to town, boy, it does not disappoint. Her characters are flawlessly imagined and I fell in love with the inner fire that drives Harry and fuels her throughout the novel. She is a fierce character to be sure and an incredible heroine. I love her voice throughout the book, here is a perfect example of this sort of snarky inner commentary she maintains throughout.
“One doesn’t generally look into mirrors when one is especially angry; one has better things to do, like pace the floor or throw things.”
I love that! And this:
“There was a certain bitter humor to lying awake wishing for something one cannot have, after lying awake not so long ago wishing for the opposite thing that one had just lost. Not a very useful sort of adaptability, this, she thought.”
And one more because her voice burns so brightly here!
“He looked at her rather as a man looks at a problem that he would very much prefer to do without. She supposed it was a distinction of a sort to be a harassment to a king.”
Wrapping it Up
I really enjoyed this book and loved the expertly drawn characters. I love how much history is deeply ingrained in the storyline without tons of exposition being wasted on explaining it all. This is masterfully done in a sort of implicit way by McKinley and once again I am seething with envy because I would love to know how she does this.
“Blue Sword is amazing. Set in a perfectly crafted world, I highly recommend for all lovers of fantasy. An absolute must-read if you truly love the genre.”
Title: The Blue Sword
Author: Robin McKinley
Series: Damar #2
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Genre(s): Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult