Harry Crewe, the Homelander orphan girl, is pleased with her new home. Life in Istan is certainly easy, but a voice in her ear whispers that the home of her heart is among the Hillfolk, among the descendants of Lady Aerin, who once wielded Gonturan, the Blue Sword.
©1982 Robin McKinley (P)1992 Recorded Books
In 1982, when this book was published, I loved it without reservations. It broke new ground mixing magic and alternate history, it had a capable, self-aware heroine, and it built an exotically evocative, engaging, and appealing world.
Thirty-one years later, listening to Diane Warren's excellent performance, I realized that all those things are still true--but there's more to it. Time has brought some disturbing threads and nuances to the surface of the story, as a whole body of other works grew up following in this one's footsteps, and as capable, self-aware heroines became normal instead of oddities. Noticing those disturbing threads adds richness and complexity that, if anything, reinforces simple enjoyment of the story.
To write this book with this heroine and this plot, McKinley had to fight her way out of confining cultural expectations and stereotypes. She succeeded amazingly well--but the lingering strands of those expectations and stereotypes still show. They certainly don't undermine the book's quality or the importance of what McKinley accomplished, but they do add a kind of fey light that casts odd shadows (rather like the heroine's dual vision in the story itself). The book, caught at the hinge of a literary turning point, is, honestly, rather odd.
In some ways, this is a book about possession. The main characters perform brave, unexpected, history-changing deeds--but usually when they perform them, their will and choice is compromised by being under the influence-compulsion-control of another force. In some ways, it's a book about abduction. The main character is kidnapped, and although McKinley carefully foreshadows and justifies the character's change of allegiance, there are still queasy echoes of the Stockholm syndrome in the shift of her loyalty and affection.
Ultimately, it's a tribute to McKinley's accomplishment that even today the book succeeds on its own terms despite the overtones that were invisible (though powerful) more than thirty years ago. One believes in the romance. One cheers the shift in allegiance. The possession is more enviable than creepy.
This isn't a simple book, but it's certainly an interesting, enjoyable, and worthwhile book to listen to.
Addicted to books, especially audiobooks. Read lots and prosper!
This has been a favorite young adult novel for over 20 years! I'm so happy to have it on my iPod now! Yay me!! The story is still excellent and satisfies many levels of story telling - who doesn't like war horses, swords and kings, challenges, magic and legends. If you love grounded fantasy and horses and magic swords then this will be a sure win. The narrator has a nice voice, pleasant to the ear.
This has been one of my favorite books for a long time, so I was delighted to get it as an Audible book. However, when I first downloaded it, the recording quality was awful. I contacted Audible, and they fixed it! All I had to do was delete my copy and download again and now it works great. So, if you previously bought this book with the recording errors, try again now, I think you'll be as pleased as I am.
As for the story, it's the story of Harry Crewe. When her father dies, is sent overseas to the care of her brother whom she has not spent time with in years and to the household of a childless couple. In her new country, she is drawn to the native people and their ways without knowing why. She finds herself thrown into entirely unanticipated adventures with equally unexpected joys and struggles. If you like this book, you should also look into the Hero and the Crown, which is a related story.
Learned to read at 3; any day I can't read at least 1 book is a day wasted. I earn my living with words as well (word processing/editing).
I loved the book and would think that anyone, YA or adult, who likes fantasy would enjoy it as well.
I don't think I can select just one scene as a favorite; I liked the entire book.
I have hoped for an Audible recording of this book, but I was very disappointed (along with most of the other reviewers) with the quality of the recording (pops and skips, etc.); I persevered because I do love this book, and parts were of better quality. However, overall it was a disappointment because of that problem.
Should it be recorded again (and I have NO problem with the reader, as Diane Warren did a great job!!), I would be interested in listening to this again.
Recently, I've begun listening audio versions of favorite novels to help me with a long commute to/from my job. The Blue Sword is the novel I read and re-read the most in my teen years, so I was excited to see an audio book existed. I began listening to it with childlike glee, only to stop listening after a few chapters.
For most titles, I have found the audio book experience only increases my already profound love for whichever novel I'm listening to. The Blue Sword, however, does not translate well to audio book for me.
For one, the back-and-forth between character thoughts, back story, and narrator description that worked well on the page instead interrupt the listening experience so that I find myself having to consciously remind myself of what's going on. Add the back-and-forth with a vocal performance that slows down the pace of an already slowish beginning, I find I cannot make it past the first few chapters of the audiobook.
For this one, I'll return to the old dogeared pages.
Soft, slow, invariable
I've loved this story for a long time. Perhaps it is the fact that this is a favorite that I found the performance a bit - lacking. Not that the performance wasn't well done or professional - but "wrong" for this story. The reader sounded like an older woman and the story is very much that of a girl. I would have liked someone closer to Harimad Sol's age reading her story to me.
Book is terrific. I own a print copy and have read it several times over the years. The only thing I'd change is to make it longer so I can keep following this wonderful story.
I just plain *like* Harry. And Dedham and really all the characters. The villains are remote and practically nameless. It's a sweet read. Most people can identify with Harry's desire to have "something" exciting happen to break the rhythm of everyday. And then to get a cat, a horse, a man, and a sword. Well, wow.
Narrator did a poor job. Seems not to have read the book beforehand and/or to not really be fond of the story. Her reading was off many times. She'd start a sentence as tho' Harry was speaking to herself only to realize that another character was addressing this one. Or vice-versa. The lack of nuance really took away from my enjoyment of a favorite book which I was looking forward to having read to me while I drove. The poor performance keep me from sinking into the experience. I will never buy another audio book narrated by this woman.
my review is biased because this is a audiobook i loved when i was a kid and i was overjoyed to find it on audible the same reader and everything
the author Robin McKinley is a hit or miss when it comes to books some are outstanding others are long winded
this is one of her outstandings
Unlike others who have a sentimental attachment to the book from having read it in the past, this was the first time I read or listened to The Blue Sword. After reading that it was published in 1982, I got some insight into why I am so unimpressed.
The story is slow and repetitious, yet abrupt in some ways. For example, there isn't much justification for the main character, who was drugged and kidnapped, to feel "safe" almost immediately with her abductors.
But the real problem is the excruciatingly slow pace of the narration. For the first time ever, I had to raise the speed on my player. Even at 2x, it was easy to keep up. Long pauses between sentences, listening to the reader draw breath, the slow enunciation and lack of expression made for an aggravating listen.
I am very disappointed in this audiobook, both from the story and the reader's presentation.
I have been a huge fan of Ms. McKinley's Damar books since I was a child, so when I saw that the audiobook was available, I snapped it up instantly.
Don't get me wrong: You should absolutely, definitely read this book. But if you have any choice at all, read it yourself and avoid the audiobook until a better-quality recording has been made.
Ms. Warren's reading is decent enough, although she doesn't appear to have put much thought into the emotion behind her words. Many of the characters came off as emotionless, to my ear. But to be fair, I've got portions of the book memorized and after so many years of hearing them in my head, I came into the experience with certain expectations. I have heard much worse readers and Ms. Warren is easy to follow with a pleasant voice.
What is NOT acceptable is the terrible quality of the recording, which appears to have been converted to digital format from an old cassette that was not at its best. There are many skips and places where the sound was blurred, and the entire first half of Chapter 4 is so full of clicks and static that it's all but impossible to listen to without gritting your teeth.
I'm astonished that any publishing company would allow such a poor quality audiobook to be marketed. Shame on you, Recorded Books! Ms. McKinley's wonderful work deserves much better treatment. I join the other reviewers who are crossing their fingers and hoping hard for a new and better quality recording of this classic Young Adult novel.
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