My choice to read The Hero and The Crown was motivated in part by my need to have something to read, and also by nostalgia. A young adult novel, I first read this book over twenty years ago. I really liked it. I remember I picked it out because of the big black dragon on the cover. Yet another success story of picking up a book based on its cover (but not judging said book). I was treated to a much deeper story than I had expected. .
Like many great stories, Hero and the Crown has a solid plot, with a compelling sequence of events with gathering tension and scope. However, like any great story, spoiling the events of the plot will not completely spoil the story, as the reading of the events carries a pleasure all its own. I can attest to this, having now read it for a second time. Nonetheless, I will now issue a *spoiler alert* as I intend to discuss specific plot details.
In brief, the story follows the development of a young woman named Aerin. The daughter of the King of Damar, her aristocratic title is First Sol- a rank she shares with her cousin Tor. Despite her rank, she is not widely respected, as she is the product of the king's second marriage, and her mother (now passed) did not have good reputation. On top of this, she does not take well to her position as royalty, and does not perform well in court. The story begins when Aerin is fifteen, and progresses through her twentieth year.
More than a two-dimensional tom-boy, Aerin Sol demonstrates a scientific rigour and fastidiousness in her pursuit of the formula for Kenet, the fire-proof balm that opens the world of dragon hunting. She also shows a certain bullheadedness in the way she pursues her new occupation, both in her initial dragon hunt, and then when she fights the great dragon Maur. However, over the course of the story, that bullheadedness transforms into a sense of duty, dedication and bravery.
I would definitely recommend this book. It's quite rich in detail and character motivation. The beginning is slow, but it allowed me to get really familiar with the protagonist. She spends time as a healer and as one needing healing. She grows and changes even before becoming a dragon hunter. This makes the payoff even better when the action ramps up. And I have to applaud McKinley on her handling of the great Dragon fight. It is truly memorable.
The Hero and the Crown is rich and imaginative, escapist fantasy and a coming of age story. It may seem cliche, but I would compare this book to the work of Tolkein, in that I get the impression that it was written with a lot of love and care.