I went into this book thinking that it was a prequel to The Hero and the Crown, but after reading it, I don’t think it’s either prequel or sequel. It is set after The Hero and the Crown, as characters in that book are mentioned in The Blue Sword, but it’s centred on a whole different cast of characters. I think my confusion stemmed from the fact that the Blue Sword was written before The Hero and the Crown (but is set after). I absolutely loved this book, as I did The Hero and the Crown.
This is the story of Harry (a girl − her full name is Angharad), who must leave Homeland and join her brother at a remote desert outpost after her noble-born father dies. Not long after she adjusts to life at the outpost, the king of the desert lands, Corlath, visits the outpost to request help of the Homelanders in fighting against the invading Northerners. While there, Corlath sees Harry. His kelar, the magical intuition of the desert people, tells him to steal Harry away and bring her back to his city. Harry soon finds that she doesn’t feel as out of place as she thought with the Damarians, the desert people. She even finds that she has kelar herself. When she begins to learn the ways of the Damarians and train in their legendary horsemanship skills, she is confused by her feeling of kinship with these people. When she participates in the apprentice’s fight to prove her horseriding and fighting skills, Corlath gives her Gonturan, the sword of Aerin, and makes her one of the honoured king’s riders, the Laprun. Harry is the first Laprun-minta, female Laprun, in a very long time. She must listen to her kelar and to Gonturan to protect both the Damarians and Homelanders from certain death when the Northerners invade. She defies Corlath’s orders and rides off herself to protect the pass near the desert outpost where her brother is stationed. Of course there’s a bit of romance in the book for Harry, but I don’t want to spoil it if you haven’t read it.
Just as she did in The Hero and the Crown, McKinley manages to tell a multi-faceted story effortlessly and beautifully. This book has the same legend- or myth-like quality to the writing that I love so much. After reading this, I have to say again how surprised I was by Pegasus: while it was beautifully written and the world McKinley creates is gorgeous, it didn’t seem to go anywhere for a very long time, and when it finally did, it crept along. I find this amazing, considering how much plot McKinley packed into The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword while still maintaining the mystical quality of her writing and without having the books feel rushed; books that are a quarter of the length of Pegasus. I see that McKinley has written many other books, and I’m now curious to read a few of them (though probably not Sunshine, vampires not being my thing).