The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley | Book Review

Sunday 3 November 2019

So I read a lot of books… or at least I try to. This is my second year taking part in the Popsugar Reading Challenge and it’s forcing me to broaden my horizons and read books I normally would never have given a second chance… Okay, that’s kind of a lie. I end up trying to shoehorn my usual Fantasy and Sci-Fi books into the categories, only to then break down and read something different for any category I can’t find a genre book for. Wow, this fantasy book has a main character that once slept with a dude, guess that fits for prompt 12: A book with an LGBTQ+ protagonist. Prompt 6 is A novel based on a real person, I guess that means I can read my zombies on the Titanic book. After all, Captain Smith was a real person. You get the idea.

Anywho, I’ve been reading so many books that I figured, why not start writing reviews on them? Like I said, I mainly read fantasy and Sci-Fi and those are pretty nerdy genres, so it works for this site? Right? Right! So lets start the first review in the first ever Billiam’s Book Blog. Here’s my review for The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

*This will be a spoiler free review. Anything I mention from the book is either unimportant to the plot or is stated on the book or in the Amazon synopsis*

Would anyone really be mad if I spoiled a book that was written in 1982? I figured I’d be kind seeing as reading a book is a much bigger commitment than a movie. Best to cover my ass anyway.

So I had never heard of this book before and I’m a big fan of the Fantasy genre. I read The Hobbit when I was a kid just like everyone else. I grew up reading Phillip Pullman, Roald Dahl, and found Harry Potter in my high school years. Later on I branched out to Terry Brooks, Jim Butcher, Ursula K Le Guin, Brandon Sanderson. I’ve read books all those authors had recommended but I had never heard of this book that’s supposed to be a well loved classic.

I picked up this book to fill the prompt: Book with your favorite color in the title, for the Popsugar reading challenge. I found it in the children’s section of my local library so I figured it’d take me a day or two of reading, a couple hours a day. I was wrong. In the end it took me about twenty days with an hour or two a night to finish it. Why? Because it’s dryer than eating saltines in the desert. It’s dense. Really dense.

The overall plot is pretty cool. This young woman is swept away to this new world after her father dies. She’s somehow drawn to this new place even though she’s never been there before and falls in love with the area. One day the king of a former hostile people visits and asks for help defending against a common enemy. He’s turned down, but notices Harry (the young woman) as he leaves and senses magic in her. He later returns later to kidnap her and she’s taken away from her new home and forced to train to become a warrior for the Hill people.

This could be a pretty cool plot, but it’s sullied by pacing issues and a story that flows about as nicely as molasses through sand (yes, those are two different issues). This may be a spoiler but it happens so early in the book that I feel it’s perfectly safe to say. After Harry gets kidnapped, she’s fine with it. She wakes up scared and after a few days is perfectly fine. There’s a big reveal near the end as to why this is, but it’s so stupid and contrived that I openly swore at the book, scaring my wife who was reading next to me.

I don’t see why people like this book at all. Harry is the biggest Mary Sue I’ve seen outside of bad fan fiction and not only that but there’s a very weak love story that’s shoehorned into the book out of nowhere. Ninety-five percent of the book has no mention of love. Not even a hint, yet a special and particularly awful five percent has it shoved in there like a reject from a Nora Roberts novel.

This book was slow paced, like I mentioned before, until certain parts where time jumps but nothing really changes. Harry accomplishes so much in a small amount of time that she boarders on being divine. A few weeks to train for a tournament and you’ve never fought before? Of course it’s possible to make you a contender. Not even bad shounen manga does that. Even Goku had to train like a mofo to prepare for his battles.

Was there anything good about this book? Yes. Despite Harry being desperately OP, she had potential to be a good character. The world McKinley created was very interesting with an interesting juxtaposition between the Outlander/Hill people relationship and the British Kingdom/Anyone they invaded. Could the book be used as an allegory for not only women being strong and independent but also us being kinder to different cultures? Sure, if The Blue Sword was written better it sure could have been that.

The positive in this book is so overshadowed by the bad that when I was done I was left feeling empty with a hint of anger. Did I really just waste all this time on the book? By the time I knew I wasn’t going to like it, by the time I knew it wasn’t going to get any better, I was already halfway through and decided to trudge on through the sloppy and overabundant prose.

I wish my first book blog was a positive one but I know if I kept putting it off, I’d never actually get around to it.

Do you like Fantasy? Great! So do I? Never read this book.

The Blue Sword gets a 2 out of 11.

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