Monday, September 21, 2015

Read This F@!%ing Book (48)

Welcome to a feature I'm going to post on Mondays called:
Read This F@!%ing Book!
This is a feature for me to push my favorite reads that just aren't getting enough attention! 
I'm also opening it up to anyone who would like to guest post. Do you have a book that you just LURVED but feel like its not getting the play it deserves? Email me to let me know and I'd be THRILLED to have you post about it here! Especially if its something I haven't reviewed yet - that's even better (but not necessary)! If you're interested email me:

 This week's post comes from our very own: 
Rose Red!

Read This F@!%ing Book Post 48: The Damar Series by Robin McKinley
(Click book cover to go to Goodreads page)

I've recently been rereading some of my favorite books from when I was a kid. It's been fun reconnecting with some of these older books that I read ragged. Much of my pre-teen and teen years were devoted to reading everything I could get my hands on by Robin McKinley. Her books are what got me into reading fantasy. I had never read any fantasy books before I read The Blue Sword and it immediately hooked me on the genre. Before I read it, my reading tastes were totally different and ran along the lines of classics like The Swiss Family Robinson, The Boxcar Children series, and Nancy Drew books. Let’s just say that if I hadn’t picked it up my reading tastes would probably be very different today. So today, I kind of want to write a different post for Read This F@!%ing Book. I want to tell you why you should read this book as well as how much this book got me into one of my favorite genres and how that influenced what I read today.

Let’s flashback to the 90s. 1995 to be exact. 
Nine year old me was browsing through the books in the local library and I found this beautiful book called The Blue Sword. The cover drew me in. I was so intrigued by the pretty horse and awesome glowing sword on the cover, I just had to check it out. As soon as I was home, I sat down and read it in one sitting. That book made me a Robin McKinley fangirl for life. It had everything I never knew I had wanted. There were kidnappings, magic, horses, swords, a kick butt heroine, and just a hint of romance. I loved it. Like loved it so much that I immediately reread it. I actually reread it four times before we went back to the library a week later.

I was obsessed! I wanted more of the world and more of the horses! The magic system is still so different from any magic systems I’ve ever read and it’s been about twenty years since I’ve first read this. Also, the world building is epic! There are horses, magic swords, battles, seers, and political intrigue! Gah! It’s just plain amazing! I’m still fascinated at how much thought and effort went into just how the Hillfolk ride their horses in this book alone. But everything in this book is like that.
When we returned the book, I asked my librarian if The Blue Sword was part of a series. She just smiled knowingly and lead me to where all of McKinley’s books were located. Let’s just say that my librarian made sure that I went home with The Hero and the Crown, the companion novel in the Damar series, as well as with Beauty, McKinley's first Beauty and the Beast retelling, in my hands. And I loved them every bit as much as I had The Blue Sword.

The Blue Sword Was My Gateway Book.
It became my gateway book into fantasy. Every time I returned to the library after that, the librarian always had a couple books set aside that she promised that I would love because I loved The Blue Sword. I devoured each and every book she gave me after that. And guess what? She was right. I loved all of them! And each one was always a fantasy novel. That librarian recognized the intense love I was developing for that genre and she kept the fire stoked. She and the books she gave me became a lifeline. I didn’t have a lot of friends because I was that weird girl who read all the time. I was the one who loved books and horses more than sports and gossiping. Each book offered an escape and I took it every chance I got.

Over the next several months and years, my librarian introduced me to some of my favorite books of all time. After I finished Hero and Beauty, I was introduced to Patricia C. Wrede and her delightful Mairelon the Magician books as well as her wonderful Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Those were quickly followed by Ella Enchanted, Gom on Windy Mountain, and The Hobbit. Which then led to me devouring the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy. From there it snowballed dramatically. I quickly picked up Sabriel and my first Shannara book. And then the wonderful and magical Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was released and books with magic and mythical creatures became cool in my small town. I was no longer the weird kid who read all of the fantasy books she could get her hands on. I became the person that people came to for book recommendations after that. Ironically enough, that’s something that hasn’t changed and I still read fantasy with an undying fervor. My current bookshelves and life wouldn’t be the same without this little book’s influence because it didn't only set me up to read high fantasy. It gave me the foundation to discover other fantasy genres that I love  through some of my favorite authors from that time like urban fantasy and paranormal romance when Robin McKinley released Sunshine or historical paranormal romance when I picked up Sorcery & Cecilia by Patricia Wrede.

I think the most important moment in my reading life can be pinned on that moment when I picked up The Blue Sword for the first time. It started my life long love affair with fantasy and all of its awesome subgenres. That book and that librarian helped shape who I am as a reader and as a person today. I shudder to think of all the books I would never have found if I hadn’t read it and asked my librarian that all important question that lead to all of this. I wonder if I would have been brave enough to pick up the books I love today without it. I can’t imagine my life without steampunk, paranormal romance, urban fantasy, or Brandon Sanderson books in it. I’m so grateful that Past Me was so intrigued by the cover and that my local librarian knew exactly what books I needed to build my fantasy foundation. I wouldn’t be the same if I hadn’t taken it home that day. 

You All Need To Read These Books!
The Blue Sword is still my favorite Robin McKinley book and it's considered a fantasy classic. You definitely need to read it! If it helps, it was also a Newbery Honor book in 1983, if those kinds of things float your boat. If I’m to be honest. this is the McKinley book that I push on everybody followed closely by its companion novel. Even though The Blue Sword is technically the second book in the series,  I highly recommend it picking it up first. It is a better introduction to the world and makes The Hero and the Crown a less confusing and more enjoyable read.

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