The Hero and the Crown By Robin Mckinnly
I was in middle school when I read this. It was a hard time for me. I’d just gone through fifth grade where all of my friends ditched me and my teacher had been a nightmare. I was also dyslexic and everything academically was really hard for me. I worked three times as hard just to get my homework done, usually getting bad grades, and I spent a lot of time being sick. I was also a target for being picked on.
Some things were good. My sixth grade teacher was wonderful and I met the girl who would be my best friend for the next twelve years. I also had my mom who was awesome. Despite the good, the bad became too much for me and I would use books to escape. The Hero and the Crown was one of the ones that I never forgot.
The main heroine was a princess. She was teased by her cousins for being ugly and gawky and unable to do magic. The lack of magical ability made it so she didn’t learn things easily like the rest of her family. So she worked three times as hard to learn how to fight with a sword and a spear. Through some circumstances I can not explain without reveling too much, she gets very ill and has to spend a long time recovering. Frustrated at her illness she reads and takes on rehabilitation of an injured old warhorse. She spends a lot of time reading about dragons, and realizes that there is a distinct possibility that one is going to come back in her lifetime. At that point she doesn’t just sit around on her butt, she starts making preparations for this fight.
I more than admired Arron. I wanted to be like her. She worked hard and did well. She wasn’t like many of the other hero’s that I had read about who had been born into it or pushed into it. Although there was a certain aspect of destiny, the destiny was because she was the person she was, without her determination and hard work ‘destiny’ would have been averted.
The romance in the book is not like the romances I was generally reading at the time. There was a formula in fantasy: man and woman meet, chemistry happens, they fights and say horrible things to one another but they really love each other and by the end of the book they admit their feelings and end up together. The formula bothered me for many reasons. I was uncomfortable with verbal disputes and insults and I felt that if they couldn’t be nice to each other for more than ten pages at the end, how could they be expected to live happily ever after? I also wanted to see for myself that love was more than just attraction.
The Hero and the Crown stood out to me as something truly romantic. The main couple respected and knew each well, they fell in love at the same time, and then they did great things together because their goals were aligned. When they fought it was over real things, and even when they fought they were respectful. It felt like they could really weather any storm together.
I’ve re-read this book many times over the years and its just as good each time. How often can you say that?