The Blue Sword

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The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley is a fantasy novel that follows Angharad "Harry" Crewe as she adjusts first to life in the Homelander colony of Daria—called Damar by its native inhabitants—and then to being kidnapped by the Damarian king, Corlath. There is also a prequel, The Hero and the Crown, which tells the story of Lady Aerin, Dragon-killer, one of Damar's greatest and most legendary heroes, who is mentioned with some frequency in The Blue Sword. There is also a midquel short story, A Pool In The Desert, which has less swords and horses than the other two.

McKinley has said she wrote the book after reading (and being completely horrified by) The Sheik. She's referred to it as "the anti-Sheik".

Tropes used in The Blue Sword include:
  • Abduction Is Love: Subverted. The Riders suspect this with dismay when Corlath kidnaps Harry, but he makes it very clear that's not the case. He only keeps her around because of a premonition too strong to ignore, and later because of her magic and sword skills. They do fall in love, but not until she's fairly adjusted to her new home and on more or less equal terms with him.
  • Action Girl: Senay and eventually Harry.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Harry calls her brother Richard "Dickie", which doubles as Have a Gay Old Time. Jack calls Harry "Captain". The Hillfolk call her "Hari," which is later lengthened to "Harimad". And after they get engaged, Corlath calls her "my heart".
  • Authority Equals Asskicking
  • Awesome but Impractical: The Damarian style of riding involves a padded saddle, no reins, and no stirrups.
  • Babies Ever After: Tor Mathin and Aerin Amelia.
  • Badass Normal: Jack Deadham, Mathin, and the rest of the King's Riders
  • Big Bad: Thurra
  • Big Brother Instinct: Richard, much to Harry's annoyance.

"He takes the man's responsibility to his frail female relations very seriously, does Dickie. Drat him."

"It must be very dreary, being Just, when your wife is out killing dragons."

    • However, she later decides he can't have been all that boring if he was also a noted general, able to hold off the Northern army for 9 consecutive days of battle.
  • Plot Induced Stupidity: Ignoring the northwest pass and letting the Northerners destroy Istan "to keep them amused" without even warning the town? Really, Corlath?
    • He didn't think the Northeners would send a large force through, and he had already warned the Homelanders about the Northeners.
  • Rain of Arrows: In the climactic battle against Thurra's Army
  • The Raj: The Homelander domination of Damar is a pretty clear Expy of The Raj; indeed, a good description of the setting would be "Colonial India with Mordor just to the north."
  • Scars Are Forever: The King's Riders all have ritually scarred hands, with the aid of a special salve.
  • Shout-Out: Corlath telling Harry if she's so worried about sneak attacks, she might as well keep an eye out for eagles carrying rocks.
  • Sword Fight: many
  • Time Abyss: Luthe is at least 2000 years old by the time of The Hero and the Crown, and has not changed a bit however many hundreds of years later it is when we meet him in The Blue Sword.
  • Tomboyish Name: Harry, whose real name - Angharad - isn't revealed until a good ways into the story.
  • Uncoffee: Malak.
  • Vagueness Is Coming: Lampshaded by Luthe, who points out that he's given Harry a much straighter answer than she has any reason to expect from any ancient oracle on a mountain.
  • You ALL Share My Story: Senay, Terim, the Homelanders and the Filanon all get credit for stopping the Northerners. Aerin explains that she arranged this for Harry, because in her own lifetime, she found that the people at home don't like being left out of the adventure.

Tropes in The Hero and the Crown

  • Action Girl: Aerin.
  • Artifact of Doom: Maur's skull, which radiates depression over the whole city, almost causing them to lose the final battle against the Northerners.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Aerin is implied to do this at the end of her reign, to become a sort of patron spirit for Damar.
  • Break the Haughty: Galanna, who is widowed and very much subdued by the end of the novel.
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: Aerin suffers a great deal through her heroics. After the fight with Maur, she was severely burned and would have died from the aftereffects if Luthe hadn't turned her immortal.
  • Black Sheep: Aerin. The only people who don't dislike her for her mother's sake are her father, cousin, and nurse.
  • Body to Jewel: The last drop of a dragon's blood shed when it dies becomes a gemstone. In the case of most dragons, it's too small to bother looking for, but one that comes from a great dragon is a very valuable treasure.
  • Cool Horse: Aerin inherits her father's retired cavalry charger, Talat. Somewhat played with in that she only gets him because he's crippled and useless to everyone else. At first.
  • Death by Childbirth: assumed to be the reason behind Aerin's mother's death.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Aerin's uncle Agsded.
  • Fantastic Racism: Against the Northerners. Aerin's Northern heritage on her mother's side is often held against her; and sure enough, in The Blue Sword nobody in Damar even remembers that their national heroine was related to their worst enemies.
  • Gentleman Snarker: Perlith.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: The cousinly version, with Galanna.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: Aerin and the royal family, Luthe.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Agsded does his level best to destroy Aerin's confidence by telling her that her people despise her, her father finds her merely a useful tool, and Tor only loves her because she bewitched him without knowing it. When he starts belittling Luthe, however, who Aerin knows perfectly well is a great wizard, she sees right through him and delivers the following retort:
  • The Horde: The Northerners
  • I Fell for Hours: Aerin climbs an insanely long staircase, then falls back down. Both the climbing and the falling take quite a long time.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Aerin, after her lungs are burned in the fight against Maur. She survives, but at a high price.
  • Immortality: Luthe has either Type I or Type II.
    • Aerin might possibly have Type XI following her dip in the Lake of Dreams.
      • It might also be Type II, depending on how you interpret her climb and fall.
  • The Jeeves: Teka, Aerin's maid and the closest thing she has to a mother, who feels free to scold and fuss over her mistress even when the rest of the court reveres her as a heroine.
  • Important Haircut: After Maur scorches most of Aerin's hair off, it grows back thinner and darker. Teka cuts it shoulder-length and it stays that way.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: It's Agsded who first points out to Aerin that Tor is in love with her.
  • The Kingdom: Damar
  • Late Arrival Spoiler: Aerin kills a dragon.
  • Love Triangle: A rare example in that Aerin actually gets both men: first an ordinary lifetime ruling Damar with her husband Tor, then an immortal one with Luthe.
  • Magic Warrior: Aerin
  • Mayfly-December Romance: Aerin and Luthe, which makes his Anguished Declaration of Love particularly touching.

Luthe: "I will love you until the stars crumble, which is a much less idle threat than is usual for lovers on parting."

  • Mushroom Samba: non-comedic version. Aerin is tricked into eating the herb, which is supposedly poisonous to non-Royals, and spends several months being frightened of purple smoke demons.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Used, in that most Damarian dragons are little more than dumb beasts which are considered pests (although they do breathe fire). Averted by the great dragons, which are evil, ancient, and generally fit the description of classic Western-style dragons, although without the piles of gold or kidnapping of maidens.
  • Rapunzel Hair: Aerin's hair is originally around knee-length. Galanna also has waist-length hair.
  • Rebellious Princess
  • Redheaded Hero
  • Secret Legacy
  • Sleep Cute: Aerin watches Luthe this way during their last night together.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Aerin versus her cousin Galanna.
  • Time Abyss: Luthe.
  • Victorious Childhood Friend: Aerin and Tor.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Aerin and Tor both feel this way about King Arlbeth, although in Tor's case it's "well done, nephew".

Tropes in A Pool In The Desert