The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown were published after Robin McKinley’s Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast (1978), the award-winning and critically acclaimed novel that established McKinley as an outstanding fantasy writer for young adults. The Damar novels also were well received, garnering McKinley several awards including a Best Young Adult Books citation from the American Library Association in 1982 and a Newbery Honor citation in 1983 for The Blue Sword, and a Horn Book honor list citation in 1985 and the Newbery Medal in 1985 for The Hero and the Crown. Although some of the themes in The Hero and the Crown are more mature than those of The Blue Sword, both books are classified by booksellers and librarians as young adult novels.
The setting of the novels—especially the Damar of Harry’s time—is based partly on Rudyard Kipling’s depictions of the British Empire. The Homelanders (or Outlanders, depending on which side one is on) display an obviously paternalistic attitude toward the native Damarians they govern. In the Damar of Aerin’s time, the Outlanders are absent and the geography is some-what different, but the magical psychic abilities of the heroine prove beyond a doubt that Harry’s Damar has indeed evolved from Aerin’s Damar. The origins of many of the customs, traditions, and rituals present in The Blue Sword are explained in The Hero and the Crown as well.
The heroines Harry and Aerin were born partly from McKinley’s love of fairy tales and partly from her desire to create strong female characters who are able to do more than wait for...
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