1985 Newbery Medal: The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

Note: This post is the first that has a new section, Recommended Age Range! I’ve been mentioning an age range in the Overall Review section so far, but I’ve decided to give it its own place. This is my recommended age range based on the content of the book. It is in no way meant to be anything conclusive; it is merely my opinion. I will be updating all my previous posts with this new section.

The Hero and the Crown is the prequel to The Blue Sword (my review of which can be found here). It is written by Robin McKinley and was published in 1984 by Greenwillow Books. McKinley’s website can be found here.

Genre: Fantasy


“Aerin is the only child of the king of Damar, and should be his rightful heir. But she is also the daughter of a witch-woman of the North, who died when she was born, and the Damarians cannot trust her.

But Aerin’s destiny is greater than her father’s people know, for it leads her to battle with Maur, the Black Dragon, and into the wilder Damarian Hills, where she meets the wizard Luthe. It is he who at last tells her the truth about her mother, and he also gives over to her hand the Blue Sword, Gonturan. But such gifts as these bear a great price, a price Aerin only begins to realize when she faces the evil mage, Agsded, who has seized the Hero’s Crown, greatest treasure and secret strength of Damar.”

~Inside Flap

Cover 1


“In the back of the book Aerin found an even older manuscript: just a few pages, nearly illegible with age, sewn painstakingly into the binding. Those final ancient pages were a recipe, for an ointment called kenet. An ointment that was proof against dragonfire—it said.”

~McKinley 33

“Maur was waiting for them. They had spent the night separated from the dragon by no more than a knob of rock a little taller than Talat; and it was in the direction the dragon lay that Talat had so often looked during the dark hours. Or perhaps Maur had approached them from where it had lain yesterday and it was the weight of its footsteps Aerin had felt as its heartbeat as she lay awake by the smoky campfire.

Perhaps the dragon was not so large as a mountain; but the heavy black cloud that clung around it made it larger than a mountain, and when it first caught sight of them it lifted its wings, briefly, and the sun disappeared, and a wind like a storm wind howled around them. Then it bowed its long neck to the ground, its nose pointed toward them, and its half-lidded red eyes started straight at them.”

~McKinley 114

Warnings: Violence/war

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Rating: 5/5

Cover 2–My favorite

What I Liked:

Before I reread both The Blue Sword and this book, I’d always thought that I preferred The Blue Sword over The Hero and the Crown. Well, now I don’t. I love this book. The Blue Sword is great, don’t get me wrong, but I prefer The Hero and the Crown. Aerin is much more of my type of heroine—a little weak at first, with some negative qualities that she gradually overcomes. Aerin just felt much more real to me than Harry (Harry was much more Mary-Sueish), which is strange, because they’re also very similar.

SPOILER(?). Aerin and Luthe. Aerin and Luthe. Their departure is so bittersweet and heart-breaking. It’s even sadder when you realize that Luthe is alive in The Blue Sword and Aerin is not (even though she’s not quite mortal. I never understood how that worked out. And when will they see each other again, as they say they will?), and Luthe in Sword says something along the lines of “Aerin was very dear to me” with this sad little smile. GAH.

Loved every bit of this book, from Aerin’s experiments with the kenet, to her fighting dragons and Maur, to her time with Luthe, and the final showdown and inevitable happy (and yet bittersweet) ending.

Cover 3

What I Didn’t Like:

As I mentioned in The Blue Sword, the writing style here is hard to take. It’s very beautiful, but also…clumsy? Wordy? Long? I’m not quite sure how to describe it.

Overall Review:

The Hero and the Crown is a worthy, and maybe greater, successor to The Blue Sword. Another fantasy that should be read by any fan of the genre and even by those who aren’t. They don’t get much better than this.

Coming Up Next: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

2 thoughts on “1985 Newbery Medal: The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

  1. Pingback: Top 10 Newbery Medal Books | Leaf's Reviews

  2. Pingback: Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede | Leaf's Reviews

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