Title: The Hero and the Crown
Author: Robin McKinley
What it's about: Set in the land of Damar, this story is about Aerin, daughter of the king and generally kind of an awkward girl. She doesn't have the magical abilities that the rest of the royal family has, and she takes after her mother, a woman from the North, rather than looking like anyone else from Damar. So, Aerin's kind of a misfit, and it's made worse by knowing she's a misfit, so she's kind of pretty miserable until one day she befriends her father's old lame warhorse and discovers a recipe to make fireproof ointment. Aerin takes it into her head to fight dragons, and what was first just a way to be accepted by her father and her people leads Aerin down a path she'd never dreamed of, the path of a hero.
What I thought: One thing I noticed and liked on this read-through was just how complex the sentences are. But this complexity just makes the writing richer and more enjoyable. After all, complex doesn't mean confusing. Plus, I liked the subtle humor in this. The story's pretty grand and serious, but Aerin and other characters do have senses of humor, something which makes them much more human. The story's structured interesting, with, like, the first third being all flashbacks, almost, but you forget that the beginning was set later until the story goes back to the present. It works very well, though. The descriptions are rich, and Aerin is a strong heroine who nevertheless has weaknesses. There's also a great sense of the world of Damar and its culture and everything.
Overall: This book is an excellent fantasy story.