You know what’s the sign of a true hero? When at the peak of pain he faints… and does not wake up in a bed of clean white linen in a peaceful room where he slept deeply for the last three days. (Not even the likes of Frodo and Harry were immune to this easy escape) You recognise a true hero when he wakes up, his ankle is still broken, he’s still in a pool of mud and he manages to get himself out of that mess. With this in mind, I have nothing but r.e.s.p.e.c.t. for the heroine of The Hero and the Crown.
This is the story of Aerin, princess of Damar. Her mother was the king’s second wife, said to be a witch who won his heart through magic. It is also said that she died of despair when her child turned out to be a girl. Her father is kind but strangely ineffective against the (not so) veiled attacks from the rest of the royal family and the rumours spread by the people of Damar. As if that’s not enough, Aerin’s own magic (her birthright as royalty), is either embarrassingly late or completely missing. She’s out-of-place and disregarded, but consoles herself by making friends with her father’s injured horse and experimenting with the magical potions found in an obscure book.
If you’re a regular fantasy reader, you’ll recognize this plot as the proverbial story of the ignored and ill-used child who turns out to have rare powers and who, by a series of adventures, saves the kingdom. Not very ground-breaking apart from having a girl/woman as the action hero. I was actually hoping that Aerin had no powers at all but still saved the day using the knowledge she took from her books. But alas, it was not to be. There was also an incredible amount of sorrow throughout the whole book, mixed with lots of physical pain. Aerin is not a character who tries to see the bright side, she doesn’t laugh at herself or uses wit as a weapon. There’s deepness and darkness about her, even in the midst of victory. I’m sure this will hit a cord with many people, but it only made me distance myself from her. I prefer my heroines bright-eyed and tongue-in-cheek.
In the end, I felt the same about this book, as I did about The Wizard of Earthsea: I wish I had read it when I was an awkward pre-teen. Now I found it only kind of… Meh. Still, I would definitely recommend it to a child of mine, especially a daughter. In an age of passive Bella Swans, girls need all the kick-ass female heroines they can get.