I don't know why it is, having loved The Hero and the Crown for years, and re-reading it often, that I'd never before read The Blue Sword. Maybe because The Hero and the Crown was so perfect, the idea of reading a book set in the same milieu but hundreds of years later seemed like it would diminish the perfection.
It really doesn't. The Blue Sword is also utterly wonderful. And the pair of them I think have just taken joint lead in my heart as featuring the most satisfying romantic relationships I've ever read. Much more convincing than Elizabeth and Darcy. Just for example. Both books feature very real-feeling slightly awkward young women, who grow into their strength. Both books feature male characters who want the women to be strong and essentially themselves. Unusually, it is the male lead characters who aren't entirely confident of being acceptable to the women.
I'm fascinated that they are Newbury medal winners. There is no explicit language or anything, but they read as much more adult than a lot of contemporary YA books. There are no coy euphemisms like "feeling every inch of his hips" pressed against her (IIRC when you are making out with a teenage boy, it's not his hips you are feeling), but you are left in no doubt of the nature of the relationships.
Lovely, lovely books. I need to force myself to not read them again straight away.