The Hero and the Crown is a 1984 fantasy novel by Robin McKinley and a prequel to her 1982 novel, The Blue Sword, in which the protagonist of the former novel was first featured as a legendary character. The Hero and the Crown won the1985 Newbery Medal for children's literature.
Growing up, McKinley moved around a lot due to her father's position as an officer in the U.S. navy. She spent her early years in California, New York, Japan, and Maine before eventually attending college for two years in Pennsylvania, and moving back to Maine to finish her Bachelor's degree at Bowdoin College.
McKinley's fictional works consistently feature strong female protagonists who take an active role in the fantastical stories and are imbued with some of the qualities she herself possessed as a child/young woman. In a Newbery acceptance speech, she wrote that she "didn't discover boys because they didn't discover me, and because their standards of discovery seemed to me too odd to be aspired to. They were the ones who got to have adventures, while we got to—well, not have adventures." To challenge this harmful stereotype, she decided to portray her female protagonists with a "feminist twist"--particularly in her revisions of classic fairy tales. This is not to say that they are entirely disinterested in romance: biographer Marilyn H. Karrenbrock wrote that "McKinley's females do not simper; they do not betray their own nature to win a man's approval. But neither do they take love lightly or put their own desires before anything else. In McKinley's books, the romance, like the adventure, is based upon ideals of faithfulness, duty, and honor."
Other critics, such as TOR.com's Jo Walson, have hailed Aerin--the novel's protagonist-- as "a great role model for disabled and/or depressed people" due to her being physically ill for much of the story and facing down a terrible bought of depression that, while eventually resolved using magic, requires her persistence in order to find the cure.