My umpteenth reread of this wonderful book was read aloud to my whole family on the way to and from Florida over the holidays. The prequel to McKinley’s exquisite The Blue Sword, The Hero and the Crown brings to life one of the best heroines ever written. Aerin is a king’s daughter, but one who would rather fight and go on quests than attend court dinners. One of the joys of McKinley’s writing is that her heroines work to achieve their skills, for hours (or years) on end, and Aerin’s first quest not only almost kills her, but it also leaves her badly wounded and forced to spend months recovering. Heroism has a price, and Aerin’s willingness to pay it makes her even more remarkable in YA literature. For adventurous 12s and up.