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Literature / The Hero and the Crown

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The Hero and the Crown is a fantasy novel by Robin McKinley, and a prequel to The Blue Sword.

It 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.

This novel provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Long Stairway: The evil sorcerer's Mage Tower is extraordinarily tall, with a stairway to suit. Climbing all the stairs requires a large dose of Heroic Willpower, and Aerin is left feeling like she's been climbing unceasingly for years. According to Luthe, she probably has
  • Action Girl: Aerin.
  • The Alleged Steed: Talat becomes this after a severe injury. Aerin helps to restore him to Cool Horse status.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Captain Oblivious: Aerin, oh dear God, Aerin. Granted she's had a difficult childhood, at once overprotected and persecuted, but not only is she completely unaware her cousin Tor loves her she fails to see that she's gained supporters among the common folk and even an admirer to two among the nobility and goes on thinking and acting like she's an outcast.
  • 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. In fact she was already doomed when she married Aerin's father.
  • The Dragon Slayer: Aerin's nickname 'Dragon-Killer' is in fact not anywhere near as prestigious as the reader might think since Damarian dragons are generally small and vicious pests. The rare Great Dragons are another matter.
  • 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.
  • Fluffy the Terrible : Teka adopts one of the dogs, which grows into a huge, hulking beast. She names it Ursha, which is "a small, pink flower."
  • Gentleman Snarker: Perlith.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: The cousinly version, with Galanna.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: Aerin and the royal family, Luthe.
  • The Good Kingdom: Damar, complete with The Good King, Arlbeth and Wise Prince Tor.
  • 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:
  • Heel–Face Turn: Muted. After the war Galanna is traumatized and embittered, but she has lost all desire to make trouble for Aerin and Tor.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Aerin at first. Later she begins to win over some supporters among the common folk, though she fails to notice the fact.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Jerkass: Perlith and Galanna both spend a lot of time and effort on making Aerin miserable and are none too nice to anybody else But - it turns out Good Is Not Nice as both do their duty and more during the siege of the City.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: It's Agsded who first points out to Aerin that Tor is in love with her.
  • 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.
  • Mage Tower: The bad mage has a very very very tall tower. The good one has a one story longhouse/mansion.
  • Magic Warrior: Aerin spends the first half of the book thinking she has no magic, and the second half dealing with the fact she's got much more power than her royal relatives.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Aerin tweaks this, reflecting that the only evidence that she's her father's daughter is that her father's wife bore her as she's failed to inherit the royal gift of magic, but not even Aerin's worst enemies think that badly of her mother.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: Two examples, with the same character in opposite roles:
    Luthe: "I will love you until the stars crumble, which is a much less idle threat than is usual for lovers on parting."
    • Aerin and Tor, after Luthe makes Aerin immortal. The book doesn't explicitly spell it out, but Word of God says that her reunion with Luthe will be very bittersweet because she'll be deeply mourning her husband's death.
  • 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.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Aerin feels very royal, sweeping into shops and buying what she needs (as opposed to hiding out in the castle like she used to) but the common folk of the City are charmed by her lack of arrogance.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Aerin finds a recipe for dragon salve that lists ingredients but not proportions. When she tries it out, she burns her hands. She has to spend months experimenting with the proportions, writing down the variations, and using other test objects because her nurse vetoed her burning her hands on a regular basis.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Most Damarian dragons are little more than dumb, chicken-sized 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.
  • Rebellious Princess: Aerin is so this and with better reasons than most: her lack of magic makes her feel inferior.
  • Redheaded Hero: Aerin has red hair that is compared to fire in a heroic ballad about her dragon-killing. It grows out darker after her battle with Maur, though still red.
  • Sage Love Interest: Luthe as a combination of his usual roadside sage role and his relationship with Aerin. He's the Older Immortal to her and dispences a lot of advice.
  • Secret Legacy: Aerin spends a lot of time angsting over how she has failed to inherit the royal power, only to learn eventually that she's inherited so much more from her mother.
  • 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".