The Hero and the Crown is a fantasy novel written by Robin McKinley. The main character is Aerin, who is the daughter of the King of Damar. Aerin never knew her mother, who had died birthing her, but people rumored that she was a witchwoman from the north that had enspelled the king into marrying her so that she could have an heir to the throne. Because of these beliefs, Aerin is an outcast in her own kingdom.
For years, Aerin’s only friends are Teka, her maid, Tor, her cousin, and Arlbeth, her father, the King. They respect and believe in her unlike Galanna, another member of the royal family. Gallana hates Aerin, and tells her that she is not the King’s true daughter. She tells Aerin that she doesn’t have kelat (magic passed down in a royal family that acts as protection) in her blood, and dares her to eat a leaf of a surka plant, a lethal plant to all those not of royal blood. Aerin ends up eating a whole branch of surka leaves (supports her character of being stubborn and daring). She doesn’t die, which proved that she truly did have royal blood, but became very weak and sick, a condition that she had to put up with for many more years.
Since she was mostly confined to bed because of her illness, Aerin became extremely restless and she started wandering around the castle. She happened upon an old book about the history of Damar, and in the back there was a recipe for an ointment called kenet, which was fireproof (and dragon fire proof, as the book was also about Damar’s dragons). Aerin befriends her father’s lame war horse, Talat, because of his easygoing nature and her desperate need for a friend. She starts to experiment with the measurements for the kenet, and when she finally gets it, she decides to ride out with Talat to test it with a bonfire. (She had been practicing with Talat until he had been able to gallop smoothly even with his injured leg, and he had “become” Aerin’s horse now)
When the kenet proved successful on Aerin and Talat, Aerin decides that she will become a dragon killer, and rides put with Talat to a small village that was being terrorized by a dragon.
Again successful with her kenet, She kills the dragon and ends up saving many more villages from dragons. (These dragons were much smaller than the dragons described in the old book of Damar, those had died out and these were their relatives)
During this time though, Damar was being threatened by the northerners, and Arlbeth has to ride out to deal with them. Aerin asks to join the court’s journey, but her request is denied because her people don’t trust her. A plea of help arrives from another village that was being terrorized by the vicious dragon Maur, but Arlbeth had postponed that until he had delt with the northerners. Aerin saw her chance to earn her people’s respect, and she was able to go fight Maur because she wasn’t going with her father. When Aerin meets this dragon though, she finds out that it is much more dangerous and harder to beat than the rest of them…
Aerin ends up getting extremely injured from Maur so much that she was laying unconscious in a stream for a few days. When Arlebeth and his men found her and took her back to the castle, doctors found that her health was declining, and there was not much they could do for her. She had dreams about a man who said that he can help her, and she finally sets out to find him with Talat, leaving only a note to Tor behind. When she finds Luthe, the magician from her dreams, he helps her to heal, and in their time together, Aerin finds a true friend. But Luthe knows that there is evil still lurking, and Agsded, an evil magician who stole the crown of Damar. Luthe sends Aerin to fight Agsded, remembering that it was her mother’s wish to defeat him, as he was her brother that turned evil. Luthe finally gives Aerin The Blue Sword, named Gonturan for protection.
Along the way to Agsded’s fortress, Aerin is joined by wild cats and dogs, who prove to be very gentle and good companions. When she reaches Agsded’s fortress with “her army,” Aerin meets Agsded in a fight between the Blue Sword and the Red Sword. Agsded has a massive amount of power and knowledge on magic. But Aerin has the force of pure goodness, and the dragonstone of Maur, his last drop of blood that he shed before he died. Aerin must defeat Agsded and get the Crown back before time runs out.
I truly enjoyed this book as a book that you can’t put down. It was extremely satisfying to finish, and I was captivated by the heroic ending. I would recommend this book for more experienced readers though, or else you might not get it, and be in a drag. (And that’s not good at all!) I would rate the Hero and the Crown 5/5 stars.