Damar #1. Author: Robin McKinley.
This is the story of Corlath, golden-eyed king of the Free Hillfolk, son of the sons of the Lady Aerin.
And this is the story of Harry Crewe, the Homelander orphan girl who became Harimad-sol, King’s Rider, and heir to the Blue Sword, Gonturan, that no woman had wielded since the Lady Aerin herself bore it into battle.
And this is the song of the kelar of the Hillfolk, the magic of the blood, the weaver of destinies…
The Blue Sword is a story about three wholly different things. It’s a story about the coming-of-age journey of a young woman finding her home; the story of a nomadic culture on the decline; and while not the story of, I think we can say a story about, kelar, the wild hill-magic that pervades the setting. Each of these is a strong guiding force in their own way. Harry, our protagonist, is an astonishingly self-possessed young woman, rising to new challenges with ever-growing courage and walking boldly enough down a path she does not know to an end she cannot see. The unfamiliar culture she finds herself in is written with detail and atmosphere, a world of honor and survival and ritual, and it shapes her development and the person she is becoming; but not, perhaps, as much as the kelar does. Kelar is a force of its own in this story, a powerful magic that is not so much controlled by the royal blood as inflicted upon it, and it seems to care little for what its human tools may think.
Sexual Content: “There had been certain romantic interludes in the past that had involved galloping across the desert at night; but he had never abducted any woman whose enthusiastic support of the plan had not been secured well in advance.”/ ‘Corlath’s father had been a notorious lover of women, and unsuspected half-brothers and sisters still turned up occasionally.’/ A tradition is mentioned whereby any kidnapped woman is considered ‘ravished of honor’ even if she was actually “ravished of nothing but a few uncomfortable hours over a saddle-horn’./ ‘Corlath didn’t look at her the way a man looks at a woman he plans to have share his bed.’ /
Violence: Day-long warrior trials that involve sword-fighting and jousting and a lot of riding; the main character incurs plenty of bruises, but no one’s seriously hurt. Character tells a story: a man who knew he was going to be captured released his horse and started climbing an impassable mountain. He was found half-mad with sun and hands and feet bloody and tattered. The story-teller mentions that he recovered from the sun-stroke but could never fight again.
Language: 7 d***.