When Harry Crewe's father dies, she leaves her Homeland to travel east, to Istan, the last outpost of the Homelander empire, where her elder brother is stationed.
Harry is drawn to the bleak landscape of the northeast frontier, so unlike the green hills of her Homeland. The desert she stares across was once a part of the great kingdom of Damar, before the Homelanders came from over the seas. Harry wishes she might cross the sands and climb the dark mountains where no Homelander has ever set foot, where the last of the old Damarians, the Free Hillfolk, still live. She hears stories that the Free Hillfolk possess strange powers -- that they work magic -- that it is because of this that they remain free of the Homelander sway.
When the king of the Free Hillfolk comes to Istan to ask that the Homelanders and the Hillfolk set their enmity aside to fight a common foe, the Homelanders are reluctant to trust his word, and even more reluctant to believe his tales of the Northerners: that they are demonkind, not human.
Harry's destiny lies in the far mountains that she once wished to climb, and she will ride to the battle with the North in the Hill-king's army, bearing the Blue Sword, Gonturan, the chiefest treasure of the Hill-king's house and the subject of many legends of magic and mystery.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Harry has moved to Istan after her father passed away to be closer to her brother Richard. After several months of being there, Corlath, King of the Free Hill People (the natives of Damar, AKA Istan) arrives to speak of a danger coming from the North. The failed attempt to create an alliance becomes an opportunity for Corlath to save his people by kidnapping Harry. She is then taught the ways of Damar, become the great woman warrior bearing the blue sword. But with Harry, will they win the battle against the North?
This beautiful story is to me is almost the way history goes, only with magic. The Homeland Empire has started to take control of most of Damar, to the point that they rename it Istan. Harry has been raised as a good Homelander girl, though she has always felt out of place. When she see the opportunity that is available to her after being kidnapped, she takes advantage of it.
My favorite character is Corlath, his broody moods, and his secrets as he tries to save his people. He knows by kidnapping Harry, he has a chance to create an enemy for his people, but for him, it is worth the risk.
This novel has action, a wonderful description on the culture of Damar, and plenty of humor to keep you engaged in the story. You will want to cheer for Harry as she wins the tournament, and yell at Corlath to tell her what is in his heart. You will want to ask all sorts of questions of Luth, since you know he knows it all.
I love this novel, and I highly recommend it. Just waiting to see what else Robin McKinley is going to be cooking up!