***Group Read: The Chronicles of Prydain (Spoiler)
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Glad there were no spoilers yet -- be back in a day or two.
I was a little disappointed in The Book of Three. I suspect that, being the first book, it had to set up too many scenarios. It felt rushed, and vaguely unfinished (granted, it's a series. It's SUPPOSED to be unfinished). I do like the story, though, and I can see the potential for the future books. It could be, too, that I was spoiled by the Susan Cooper books from last year.
Anyway, I am looking forward to getting into the series!
I enjoyed the books, but I didn't really like the pace. It was fast. I felt the book just jumped from one event to the other without really giving the reader any time to get into the book. And I love action in my books, but I always feel the action needs to be balanced by a breather here or there and I think the quick pace kind of made that impossible.
On the other hand, I adored the characters. Eilonwy's chattiness always had me smiling, especially in contrast to Taran's...I can't think of a good word for it. It felt to me like he was forcing himself to act like what he thinks a hero should act like rather than just letting his personality shine through. He has kind of a hero-by-the-book syndrome :)
I think my favorite character was Fflewddur Fflam, though. I loved his popping harp strings and thought it added just the right amount of light-hearted fun to the book. Gurgi was also a joy. I liked the change in Taran in regards to Gurgi. It didn't feel as forced as some of his other "revelations" (i.e. the lessons Gwydion kept trying to drill into his head).
Looking forward to the rest of the books and I'm excited to hear what everyone else thought!
And I apologize if any of the names are spelled incorrectly. I was much too lazy to get up and actually look at them in my book :P
As has already been mentioned, the pace was to fast, jumping from one event to another. Especially in the beginning, I felt as when you start work/school somewhere new and are being introduced to so many people, it’s just impossible to keep track of. It gets better, but I still feel as if Taran just gets thrown from one event and person to the next.
And Taran himself is not really convincing to me. Maybe it’s just like RebeccaAnn said, he acts the way he thinks a hero should act. But it doesn’t seem convincing to me.
As for Eilonwy, I find her a bit too stereotype girl with the quarrelling over everything Taran says (especially after the cauldron born has left the scene). Besides that, I think she’s kind of funny and kind of sweet and kind of annoying.
Perhaps it’s just me, but I found it very similar to Lord of the Rings, only in a children’s version. Medwyn reminded me of Tom Bombadil, The Cauldron Born of The Nine Riders (Nazgûl) and Gurgi reminded me of a much more likeable Gollum. And then there's the assorted travelling companions and the must-reach-goal and might-never-see-lovely-home-again..
Anyway, I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the books, hoping they gets.. well, fuller, I think is the best word I can come up with, and more convincing.
Ronincats - interesting point about the pace of the book mirroring Taran's pace - that makes sense - and perhaps bodes well for the rest of the series?
I also spied the Lord of the Rings similarities - and generally felt that the plot just seemed a little too familiar and clichéd (Gurgi, in particular, I had problems with) - but then I think that this is partly due to when it was written. I imagine that at the time, this was not nearly so much the case. Reading Lloyd Alexander's note at the end of the book also made me more forgiving - a lot of the characters (including Hen Wen) are (loosely) based on characters from Welsh folklore (although not the story).
My reoccurring feeling was that I wish I'd read it when I was much smaller!
Reading it felt more like listening to a storyteller than reading a book. Is it possible Alexander was going for a "bard-like" feel?
The book did seem to move a bit fast. There were a few times I had to set it down and "catch my breath" for a little bit. However, Taran's journey was very rushed, so perhaps I'm feeling the way Alexander wanted me to.
I enjoyed the contrast between the characters. The book seems to set some of them up as opposites almost. We have Eilonwy who always says and does what's on her mind as she wants to and never stops talking - compared to Taran who does what he thinks he a hero should do instead of what he would do. Fflewdur and (oh crud...the prince, I'm drawing a blank, it starts with G) seem to opposites. While both can claim royalty, Fflewdur has abandoned his post and is off running around seeing the world as a bard. While G-- is talking his responsibilities quite seriously is off to try and save the world.
I also enjoyed the hidden valley in the mountains where the group rested and refilled. I think it gave all the characters a new appreciation for the world around them. It seemed to be a turning point for many of their points of view.
I enjoyed the book overall, I know the Black Cauldron is better so I'm looking forward to reading it again.
I'm kind of surprised that Medwyn reminds people of Bombadil. It seemed to me when I read the book that Medwyn is a Noah stand in. The Cauldron-Born semeed more like zombies than Nazgul to me, since they appear to have no independent intellgence of their own. If anyone would be compared to a Nazgul, I would think the Horned King bears some passing resemblance to the Witch-King (right down to both requiring a special method for killing them).
Thematically, the most important thing in The Book of Three is that Taran tries to be a hero throughout the book, and fails at everything he tries to do except get everyone more or less to Caer Dathyl. Similarly, Eilonwy tries to be a sorceress and her attempts fall flat, as do Doli's efforts to turn invisible, and Fflewdder's efforts to serve as a bard.
Medwyn felt both, a bit of Bombadil in his tree-like description, a bit of Noah (or Dwyfan and Dwyfach who survived the flood in Wels myth) in the remains of a large boat as Taran thinks he is seeing (and the animals). But for me also a bit of Merlin as he left the world behind (is that from Mary Stewarts books?).
I had no feeling the book went fast, Taran is falling from one into the next adventure, because he is like that, a young, inexperienced hero to be ;-)
And I think the resemblance with the LotR is because both Tolkien and Alexander were inspired by the same Wels myths.
As I was reading this book, the pace didn't bother me - although now that you've mentioned it, it was quite fast. But, as I was reading, I was thinking about whether my boys would like this book if I read it aloud to them. The fast pace would definitely be a plus for a nine-year-old boy, I think.
The character of Taran was especially interesting to me. RebeccaAnn, I like your description of his "hero-by-the-book syndrome." He seemed completely unprepared to take on the role of a hero, but he tried to cover it up by pretending that he knew what should be done and that he didn't need anyone's help to do it. I'll be interested to see how he develops throughout the series.
In my book, there is an author's note in the front in which Alexander writes, "Most of us are called on to perform tasks far beyond what we can do. Our capabilities seldom match our aspirations, and we are often woefully unprepared. To this extent, we are all Assistant Pig-Keepers at heart." I have felt like this lots of times in my life, so maybe that's why I was somewhat drawn to Taran.
I also like how Taran isn't the "chosen one", so to speak. He really didn't do much in the final battle. He wasn't the one meant to draw the sword (thank goodness, that had me worried for awhile). He really is someone who just kind of got thrown into the mess and his only "experience" in adventures is what's he read about in books. He's a different sort of hero than what we're used to and I appreciate that.
Feb 10 for The Black Cauldron is still good for me - it's taking a very long time for a copy to turn up at my local library ;o)
**short delay whilst fire alarm goes off** Darn those fire drills
Anyway I agree somewhat with those who said that the pacing was just too fast - I did zip through the book in a couple of hours and it did feel like we were being dragged from one event to the next without pausing for a little while. The bit where they meet Medwyn was a slight lull in the pace but that was only pretty short before they raced off again. I don't have a massive problem with how quick it was because it was a very enjoyable story but I think considering it is a children's book then the pacing makes sense to keep a child's interest over the series.
I did like how Taran matured slightly through the course of the book and hopefully over the rest of the series. Eilonwy I found quite annoying with all her continuing chatter but she could be sweet at times. For some reason I really love Gurgi - from the start he reminded me of Gollum, albeit a furrier, less evil, more childlike version of him but with all his bouncing around talking of "crunchings and munchings" I got this very vivid image of Smeagol in the Two Towers grumbling about the lack of "crunchable birdses". I loved how even he changed during the book from the cowardly often unreliable creature he was to being quite brave and fighting with the others against the Horned King.
I really want to read the rest of the series now and weirdly I want to watch my old VHS of the Disney film "The Black Cauldron" even though that was hands down the scariest disney film I've ever seen- I want to see how that lines up with the books.
I agree with you too about Fflewddur. One of my favorite parts of the book was during the arrow battle when he stopped being a buffoon and took charge.
Eilonwy reminds me of Diahan in Time Cat. An amazon.com reviewer pointed that resemblance out years ago, and I've waited all this time to start The Chronicles of Prydain and find out for myself.
It was pretty different this time around. I remember relating pretty strongly to Taran when I read it years ago, this time around Fflewddur was my favorite character...I love his combination of 'I'm nice, but I've got a bad habit', the right tone of humor to the character.
I expected to dislike Gurgi this time around, because I dislike that 'sort of character' in other books or films. I was pleasantly surprised, though. I think because while Gurgi on-the-surface is THAT character, Lloyd takes the time to provide the character with motivation and depth. Also, he's not entirely 'clumsy sidekick to show how great the hero is' ...because Taran isn't that heroic himself.
What I like about the writing for Taran is that he doesn't 'instantly have the wisdom to make the right choices'...but instead has that teenage confidence he's right, and as that kind of confidence tends to go...frequently wrong about his assumptions.
I really loved the comment in the author's note about how we're all at some time another called upon to do something beyond us, and in some way that makes us all "Assistant Pig Keepers".
* I hadn't thought about it that myself, but Ronincats might be right...the pacing is faster in this one because Taran is pretty rash and simply charges into everything. I don't remember the subsequent books clearly enough to guess if that changes over time or not. :)
* Also, the intended audience may have played a role here, he was aiming for an audience that preferred a faster pace...
* I think to some extent this a style of Lloyd Alexander, I recall the Vesper Holly adventures being like that to some extent. Strangely, though, I don't recall the Westmark trilogy being that way...I think he wanted something a little more seriously paced with those.
Interesting all these comments on pacing. I didn't really notice it being "too fast", and I have had trouble getting my 10YO to read this (even though it's right up his street) because he finds the start too slow... modern youth. Sigh. (Actually I think he's just allergic-on-principle to anything I recommend.)
This was a re-read for me, on the back of multiple re-reads as a child. I loved these books, but The Book of Three is weaker than I remember it being, maybe because I went straight on to the next book so had more of a sense of continuity.
I really noticed the LotR parallels this time round, having not read LotR previous to my other readings of Prydain. I think the point about the comparison between Medwyn and Bombadil is not so much the animals, but the being in touch with nature, and generally removed from the world in a happy sort of way; the time with Medwyn also gives the travellers a brief opportunity to recharged, in the same way that being with Bombadil boosts the hobbits in LotR (there are hints of Rivendell too, I thought).
Re. Taran being not really a hero, I really noticed this time round how much his speech contrasts with his companions: it's self-consciously epic, elevated - speaking how he thinks a hero and leader ought to speak, even though he's obviously no good at it. It plays off beautifully against Eilonwy's similes, Gurgi's mutterings and Fflewddur's boasts, and it says something lovely about his companions that they don't mock him for it (even when they're questioning his decisions).
And yes: JKR stole so much from Prydain... as well as many other childhood series I loved. It took me a long time to come round to HP because the books all felt to me like a collage of so many things that I had loved more passionately in the original.
Book 3 is where the shift really happens, as I remember it; Black Cauldron is scarier, but Castle of Llyr is where they begin to grow up properly. Can't wait.
>31 feaelin: feaelin, there is more Alexander to discover? Wow.
Oh definitely. Prydain is perhaps the most widely known, but in some ways the Westmark Trilogy (Westmark, The Kestrel, The Beggar Queen) is more of favorite of mine. My wife is a fan of the Vesper Holly series, which begins with The Illyrian Adventure. Both of those aren't precisely fantasy, but straight up adventure.
Westmark is 'heavier/darker' (as Lloyd Alexander goes), set a fictional country that has the flavor of 18th century Europe. I'd say more but I'm not sure I've read it recently enough to talk carefully around any spoilers. :)
The Vesper Holly books are adventures set in the victorian era, whose main character is decidedly unconventional.
On the pace, that's really interesting. The inscription in my copy says I was given The Book of Three on my 7th birthday and, while I'm sure I did read it by myself at some time, my main memory is of having it read to me at bedtime by my Dad (with voices etc - he did such a good Gurgi you can't imagine!!!) At a chapter a night, the pace is probably rather more manageable.
When I re-read it a few months ago, to see if it was suitable for my nephew who's now 9, I did find the pace rather hectic and was amazed at my ability to follow it - but follow it I did.
Princess Eilonwy was my role model! Maybe it's a bit dated; maybe it's not very subtle, I don't know. But when I was 7, Princess Eilonwy was all I wanted to be! A proper heroine who talks too much - just what I needed !
I'll re-read the Black Cauldron for next month - I seem to remember it being better, although rather dark. As the books go on, I think they become deeper and the culture and legends become more filled out, which I've always enjoyed.
There were so many parallels between the two, as mentioned, though I found Medwyn more like Beorn than Bombadil. And yes! As others have already mentioned, I was SO relieved when Taran was not the one destined to draw Eilonwy's sword.
Ditto on the Lord of the Rings parallels. I was struck at the beginning how many characters could find a counterpart in that series. One thing that did surprise me, however, was how much I liked Gurgi. When he was introduced I immediately thought of Gollum, and was set up not to like him from the start. I thought Taran was going to have a Samwise-Gollum kind of relationship with him (which I found incredibly annoying). But, for some reason, he turned out to be my favourite part of the book. There was something incredibly endearing about his rhyming 'crunchings and munchings' and 'sneaking and peakings'; I felt as though he was giving a voice to my own puppy Binger, who has a pretty similar spirit of just wanting to please (and hoping for some food in return).
One thing that hasn't been discussed is the title. I was a little disappointed that there wasn't more info on The Book of Three. I'm assuming that there will be more later on in the series, but I wonder why it was chosen as the title for this book. The Horned King or something similar might be more enticing as a title.
Overall, I'm looking forward to continuing with the series. I've discovered that the school I teach at has a bunch of copies of the series gathering dust in the bookroom, so I hopefully I'll have the second one read on time in Feb.
And now I want to meet your puppy Binger!
I liked the Book of Three but not as much as the other books (except for Taran Wanderer--eh, that one was okay).
It's so interesting to reread these books as an adult. They were childhood favorites of mine, too. I remember loving the faster pace of the first few books, staying up all night reading them under the covers with a flashlight.
I also loved Alexander's Westmark trilogy, which is even better than the Chronicles of Prydain in my memory. Anyone up for a group read of that when we're done with this?
I also liked the Vesper Holly books, and one of my favorite standalone books of Alexander's is The Arkadians.
Lloyd Alexander's world is more imaginary than Susan Cooper's, so I cannot repeat what I did in that group read, and say anything about location of these books.
The names are usually borrowed out of early Welsh literature - especially the Mabinogion - with occasional minor adaption. For instance, Fflewdur Fflam is Fflewdwr Fflam Wledig in the Mabiongion - one of the three chieftains of Arthur's court (as StormRaven noted, Welsh and other Celtic literature likes having things in threes!)
It occurred to me that the way most people read Fflewdur is actually probably closer to the original than I was reading it. In Welsh the "u" has a short "ee" sound, but the "w" is a short "oo" sound - so Lloyd Alexander clearly changed the name for English pronounciation rules. Then again, you may not know that "Fflew" in welsh does not rhyme with the English "flew". The ew sound is roughly the sound of the "we" in "went" said backwards! (Any student of Welsh will probably notice that in Welsh almost everything is backwards! Although Welsh speakers usually point out it is in fact English that is backwards!!)
Taran is still the Welsh word for thunder, and likely to have been the ancient name of the celtic god of thunder in Britain (Prydain in Welsh). I like that name, and its use here always puts me in the mind of the biblical "sons of thunder", the sons of Zebedee who were renowned for bold hot headedness and passion (but also loyalty). That seems to sum up Taran in this book too.
It is about the adventures of pig care giver in a "netherland" with all the bads, weirds, goods, evils, and all that other stuff. It is so wonderfully written that I could actually see what was going on as I was reading it.
I thought that I did not care for fantasy nor YA reading material. But the more of it I read the more I realize that I do enjoy most of it. So thank goodness for challenges as I wouldn't have read any of them otherwise.
I realize that I should have read this one in January but I couldn't keep up with my January reading plan and so I am trying to play catch up now.
I hope all of you on the 75 book gig have signed up for the read. I think that almost everyone would enjoy these stories. I cannot wait for the second of the series to arrive so I can jump into it.
The Henry Holt edition I read had a map and a pronunciation guide, which were extremely helpful.
I loved all the things Adaon (and later, Taran) saw and felt when they were wearing the brooch!
One of the aspects of the story I really appreciated was the concept of a price that had to be paid and how Taran grew up to pay the price for the things he achieved. I certainly wasn't expecting that!
The continuation of the Prydain series - Taran and friends go in search of the Black Cauldron of the title, in order to destroy it and prevent the evil Arwan from increasing his "Cauldron-Born" (aka zombie) army.
I don't know whether it was just that I didn't read this all in one go as I did for The Book of Three, but the frenetic pace that had me gasping for breath rather than follow the story previously seemed to have toned down a bit and, as a consequence, I enjoyed this much more.
Again, however, I shall say that, while a good read, it will never rank among my favourites and I suspect that a large part of that is to do with the fact that I didn't read it as a child - I have quite a few childhood favourites that, if I came to them afresh now, I suspect would no longer be such - there is a sort of warm glow you get when re-reading books you loved when small that can mask a lot.
Gurgi, I continue to be irritated by, as I also continue to find many of the characters (particularly Gwydion and Doli) just a little clichéd - although, as I have previously said, I'm sure that they weren't so clichéd at the time the books were written. This said, as I say, I did enjoy it. There are some great new characters - in the marsh particularly and I do like the progression of Taran's character - he is growing up convincingly, learning from his mistakes. I continue to enjoy the fact that (currently), he is just an ordinary boy who achieves things in spite of everything, not because he has some special gift or blood etc etc.
Anyway, I look forward to the next installment as this book felt a little bit like a bridge between important events.
I was very proud of Taran's actions in this book, and like the rest of you, I enjoyed reading how he matured through it.
The evil Lord Arawn is creating mindless, undieing cauldron-born. The familiar companions from The Book of Three join forces with the greatest lords of the land with a plan to steal the cauldron and destroy it. Plans like this never seem to go well, and this one seems to be foiled from the very beginning. We are intruduced to a handful of new characters, I'm not sure if they will continue throughout the rest of the series or not.
I enjoyed this book more than the first in the series. Alexander has slowed the pace down, without losing momentum. I felt like I was able to settle into the scenes and enjoy them before I was suddenly rushed on. It gave many of the scenes more of a atmosphere that I enjoyed very much. I also felt as if I was able to get to know the characters much better by being able to listen to conversations.
I think that my favorite character this time around, has to be the dwarf, Doli. He was honorable, brave, complaining, and funny. Everything that a real person seems to have in varying degrees. I was glad to see that Taran had developed and grown, as has Eilonwy. The two still argue almost non-stop, but you can see that they have learned to rely on each other for advice and guidance.
I can't wait to read the third book. The series is exciting and I look forward to seeing how the furture pans out for everyone.
>77 billiejean: Very perspicacious, billiejean!
>75 tloeffler: Hang in there, Terri. We're not even half through yet!
I agree the pace slowed down here, and we see Taran beginning to mature. I loved the new characters we encounter, especially Adaon and Orddu, Orgoch and Orwen.
Looking ahead, the third book was the one I initially liked least, for some reason. But it is absolutely key to setting up many plot elements for the last book. Book 4 is my favorite of the series--but I have to wait till April for that.
I also particularly enjoyed Orddu, Orgoch and Orwen - but then I love whenever their equivalents come up in any shape or form in fiction...
My one disappointment with this book was that I thought Alexander provided too many clues that one of the characters who went to battle with Gwydion (I think it was Morgant, but I had to return my book to the library, so I can't check the name) was going to turn bad. I saw that coming a mile away (although younger readers may need that stronger foreshadowing).
I discovered the Chronicles of Prydain thanks to the 75 group of 2008.
Back then I read them from the public library, but as I liked them so much, I bought them all second hand last year, so now my own copies are read for the first time ;-)
This time I felt more compassion for the irritating, yet tragic Prince Ellydir, then the first time.
The rivalry between him and Taran is like two teenagers who don't like eachother and so don't want to share their time.
Again a nice read, I look forward to the next one!
My favourite additional characters were the three enchantresses as well. Like others, I'm interested in seeing more from these three in the future.
Plenty of classic plot elements in this story, and I haven't much to add to other comments so I will add some trivia:
Du, Coch and Gwen (or Gwyn) are respectively the Welsh words for Black, Red and White (Gwen is the feminine form of the word). By a subtlety of Welsh grammar (you really don't want to go there!), they appear in names as "ddu" pronounced as "thee", "goch" and "wen". C.f the name "Branwen" which is "White Crow".
And thanks, sirfurboy, for the continuing Welsh lessons. It really does add another dimension to these books!
The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander is a re-read of a childhood classic, for me. It tells the story of Taran, who wants to go out into the world and have adventures - and then he does, and somewhat accidently becomes a hero. It is, obviously, aimed at children, and it's great fun to read. There are many amusing characters, such as Dallben, who has to 'meditate' frequently, with his eyes closed, and an assortment of kings who are decidedly not remote and regal, but who help Taran in his quest for the oracular pig, Hen Wen. An enjoyable read.
I really like the character of Taran and also Gwystyl; especially since this series is written for a younger generation. I think that the author has provided very well for the hero & heroine of a youngster reading these books.
Gurgi has reminded me all along of a good and faithful Gollum from The Hobbit but then when someone mentioned Dobby of Harry Potter & company, I absolutely had to agree.
My only disappointment in the book is that just when Ellidyr was becoming a "good guy", he does something so heroic that we lose him. Damn!~! I could have liked him had he continued in his "good guy guise".
I find these books to be exciting even at my age and am happy that I did go ahead and buy them. Hopefully my grandsons will read them.
I am looking forward to #3; The Castle of Llyr and thank you for letting me horn in on your 75 book challenge group reads. I am enjoying almost all of them.
One of the long term themes of the series is the cost that the struggle against Arawn takes on the "good guys". If Ellidyr's death made you sad, I can only say that The High King is going to break your heart.
#88 - I could meditate anytime, but my one year old + is just discovering the joys of walking, so I need to keep even the eyes in the back of my head open!
# 93 - Gollum; yes - couldn't think of the name (aka Smeagol). Gurgi reminded me of Gollum in his ''good" phase. Though my mental image of him is more like Captain Caveman. :-)
#84 - He got me, too.
Just finished The Black Cauldron - I'm catching up, but I've got to buy the rest of the books, now.
I have to agree, this book takes on a slightly darker note, though it's still fun, and, I think, not too morbid for children. There are new characters and old friends, different ways to become a hero or a villain and the loss of friends (and enemies). I feel the characterisations are like well drawn sketches (compared to the detail of, say, Robert Jordan's Aes Sedai constantly smoothing their lace-edged skirts); they may not have the depth of detail, but they are consistent, like chattering Eilonwy with her unusual comparisons, and are well written so you can empathise with them - I can see why she's always exasperated with Taran, although it's not completely warranted. From my completely adult perspective, it reminds me of two children who are constantly bickering for no particular reason - and I think bickering children would probably identify with them quite easily...
#89 StormRaven & #90 ronincats, that sounds promising!
This has been an interesting experience for me - usually, with something like this, I'd rush through the entire series in one go, but because of the group read, I've been pausing in between books, which gives me a little longer to think about each one before I begin the next - I think I'm probably coming to different conclusions than I would have done if I read them all at once...
In my minds eye...Gurgi's appearance has changed from the way he was drawn in the Disney cartoon, to a hairy version of gollum meets doby.
Taran, Assistant Pigkeeper, to Hen Wen the oracular pig longs to be a hero. Weeding the vegetable garden and learning to make horseshoes just seem boring. So when Hen Wen runs away he follows. This leads to a series of encounters with characters good and evil and he finds out that what he thought about being a hero comes nowhere near the truth.
This is book one of one of my favourite children's series — The Chronicles of Prydain. Too often going back to childhood favourites is disappointing but this is fast moving; filled with interesting characters and firmly based in Welsh mythology. Travelling with Taran, Eilonwy; Gurgi; Fflewddur and Doli is like revisiting old friends — comfortable and I am left with a feeling of real pleasure.
I'm planning on starting to read The Black Cauldron tonight and hope to catch up to The Castle of LLyr soon.
I worried needlessly about being annoyed by Eilonwy in this book -- she was kidnapped almost immediately and hasn't been a big part of the action!
Prince Rhun is so cheerful; I'm enjoying him.
>84 tloeffler:: Once again, Alexander created a very predictable villain -- Magg was so obvious I thought this time it MUST be a trick, but I was wrong.
Thanks for posting, Megi. I have to agree. Not only is Eilonwy kidnapped almost immediately, but Magg appears, does his dastardly deed and disappears just as quickly. I suspect that is why there is practically no character buildup on his part--he simply isn't around long enough. So, this still being a children's book, he is made very obvious. No subtleties yet--and yet one of the final scenes of the book preshadows further developments.
I suspect you are enjoying Prince Rhun in direct proportion to the amount he is annoying Taran!
I made wrong predictions in this book. I thought that Eilonwey would use the book of spells to make the cat small again. But I must say that I was happy about the result for the cat, because I was feeling quite sorry for it on the river earlier. I was surprised by the end of the book of spells. And I don't know what to think about Achren at the end. Kind of dual bad guys here with Achren and Arawn of Annuvin. I am looking forward to the next book, which I hear is great!
An other enjoyable book in the series!
I finally realized who Gurgi reminds me of: Grover from Sesame Street.
Can't wait to see how all the loose ends wind up: Rhun, Achren, even Glew.
I can see why those of you who have already read the whole series say that it's best taken as a whole - the previous books continue to gain perspective with each book I read and I'm enjoying the development of the characters as they grow up.
Still find Gurgi irritating though ;o)
At the risk of being repetititive, it was a relief not to have Eilonwy's jabbering and ".... is just like ...." comments going on all the time. Why, I actually missed her just a bit (as Alexander hoped in his foreword).
It was heartwarming when Taran said his sword was girded on by "the one I love" (although I think his falling in love with her was a bit abrupt and unexplained -- it seemed to me that it resulted from seeing her with Prince Rhun).
Taran making his own sword, cloak, and bowl was well-written: made me tired to follow all his repeated unsuccessful attempts!
On a side note, it has been interesting to me to see the giant cat. For some reason, I thought that it would shrink down like Glew did once the method was found. But I kind of like that it is still big.
So sad that there is only one more book left!
Best so far. Definitely. I find it very pleasing that although, throughout the series, the baddies are always very obviously baddies and you're led extremely rapidly through a not wholly unexpected plot, Lloyd Alexander doesn't always go for the cliché with Taran at least (yes, this does diverge slightly from my original opinion). Looking forward to the final installment...
#128 I actually quite liked the bit with Craddock - the fact that Taran struggles quite hard with himself to accept his perceived lot in life - I thought that that was very convincing, given his his fascination with all things heroic.
I'll also say that I found reading this one very satisfactory - I've been waiting the entire series for him to find out who he is and where he comes from and I particularly appreciated that he didn't turn out to be some long lost prince (although I suppose he may well yet - I really hope not) and that his real discovery was himself.
ETA: the word "most" so that my comment doesn't presume too much. 8^}
The episode with Craddock was more revealing to me about how Taran has grown, and that is my favorite part of the book.
And, since I'm being contrary here, I missed Eilonwy quite a bit. If Taran shows his character growth in this book, it can be assumed Eilonwy, having been left with her "teachers," is also growing as a character. The fact that she's only mentioned casually was frustrating.
My favorite of the books to date has been The Castle of Llyr because, for me, it best combined the action and the reactive parts of the saga.
I am looking forward to finishing the saga now--and thanks all round for the introduction to the series. It's one I missed, and it's worth the read.
I am on the fence about this one. I really really enjoyed it, up to and including the part with Craddoc. I was completely absorbed with the idea of Taran finding his heritage and realizing it was a disappointment. But the last quarter of the book I found a little muddled. His "wanderings" through being a blacksmith, weaver and potter just seemed out of character. I guess I got the fact that he was lost after his experience with Craddoc, but it didn't ring true for me. The ending didn't satisfy me; I found the confrontation with the bandit (I forget his name!) unconvincing and anti-climactic, given the nice action packed climaxes of the other books.
Overall, I think the first three quarters of the book were my favourite so far, but in the end I'm still going with The Black Cauldron for overall satisfaction. Can't wait to read The High King!
This book was a more mature work than the earlier ones I think, and it captured some of the feel of the Mabiongion and other source material that Lloyd Alexander makes use of to build this series. The labours of Taran are an intelligent and well crafted part of this plot, that speak to the importance of perseverence. his inability in the one craft that he wished to master above all others - and the commentary surrounding this was well put, and demands some introspection of the reader.
I missed Eilonwy in this book, but enjoyed Taran's quest to find his parents with Gurgi as his faithfull companion.
And good to see others we have met before, the three witches, Fflewddur Fflam and Doli.
Taran grew a lot in this book, tried some crafts, but felt his heart was not with the farm, casting iron, weaving or the clay.
I am not familiar with Welsh myth so I looked up Lleu at Wikipedia and found some more information :-)
As far as I know, for example, the Prydain Gwydion does not have a sister, and the Prydain Math is not under a geas that he must keep his feet in the lap of a virgin whenever his country is not at war.
I wish I had read this series as a child, as I think it would have grabbed me more. There are some things that work better for children and when you have nostalgia. It has encouraged me to read more children's fantasy however, which I didn't read a lot of growing up.
And in the end, at least I was thoroughly entertained by Gurgi and his crunchings and munchings.
The scene in The High King with Dallben and Pryderi and the one where the companions melt the ice to destroy Huntsmen were standouts. Too much carnage, though -- reminded me of Deathly Hallows.
Taran and some of the other heroic figures spoke in such convoluted medieval-ese that it got ridiculous. (p. 118 in my edition: "Nor more did I." At least Eilonwy's manner of speech finally became more mature in The High King.
I was hoping the marriage proposal would be more romantic and drawn-out :-)
I'll use this comment as the jumping off point for my comments on The High King. This post will contain spoilers. You have been warned.
If it had been the Taran of The Book of Three, it would have been more romantic and drawn out, and if it had been the Eilonwy of that book, she would have expected it. Both harbored romantic notions about life that simply would not mesh with reality. The overall story of the entire series is the gradual stripping away of these notions until they became fit to be leaders of their people.
The Taran of The High King and the Taran of The Book of Three are study in contrasts (actually, this applies to most of the characters, but I'll mostly stick with Taran, since his arc is the biggest). In The Book of Three Taran wanted to be glorious hero, he wanted to seek out battles, to have soldiers adore and follow him, and so on. But almost everything he did he failed at. He didn't find Hen Wen, he couldn't draw Dyrnwyn, he didn't even recover the sword, he didn't save Gwydion, he didn't defeat the Horned King - others did all those things. While desperately trying to be a hero, Taran fails time and again.
In contrast, in The High King Taran succeeds, but he harbors no notions of being a hero. People follow him, but he feels the terrible weight that leadership imposes. Everything Taran wanted in The Book of Three he gets in The High King, but he doesn't really want any of it any more. He does these things now not because they will lead to glory, but because they are necessary and it is his responsibility to do them. In the end, having shown himself to be worthy to lead, Dyrnwyn accepts him. But even then, he only turns to draw it because it is necessary, not because he wants glory or fame.
(Eilonwy making her bauble light go out is a similar decision - she realizes that her magic is not needed to be special, which she had clung to before).
On a further note, I'd say that even though there is a substantial body count in this book, I would not compare it the The Deathly Hallows in that regard. In Rowling's book, the body count piles up, but you simply don't care. It is an attempt to create false drama - "Look at all the characters dying! Isn't this scary!" But most of the characters who die are so minor that their deaths have no real impact. But when Coll or Rhun die we feel it: they were central figures for substantial portions of the books. The losses mean something to Taran, and to us, creating a much richer sense of drama.
I really like your comments Aaron, I had not looked at it in that way.
For me it was a beautiful woven story where all cords and characters came together for the great final. I did also expect a more romantic way for Taran and Eilonwy to come together, but on the other hand, the fact she wanted to stay with Taran was romantic ;-)
I enjoyed these stories as a child - first read them I think when I was about 10. I'd had the first book for at least a year or two before I read it: unusal for me not to devour a book straight away, but I was scared by the cover (it was the Armada edition) and that put me off it. When I read it, it was nothing like as scary as the cover implied.
Unlike some of my other childhood fantasy favourites, I have never re-read this series in adulthood, though I must have read them 2 or 3 times as a child. I'd still like to get hold of copies again to see how well they stand up, and having since studied some of the Welsh stories and myths from which Alexander draws names and motifs. It was partly because I'd enjoyed books like this that I chose my undergraduate degree course (Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic )- which gave me the chance to indulge in reading legends and myths full-time.
Now on to the Abhorsen trilogy.
I still think that Taran Wanderer is my favourite because I always find the killing of characters in the last book (a la Deathly Hallows) saddening but I did really like how Taran shouldered the massive amounts of responsibility in The High King. The ending did feel a little like the elves all leaving Middle Earth for Valinor in Return of the King but I was surprised at Taran's choosing to stay behind and although his marriage proposal to Eilonwy was pretty short (and her reply so typically Eilonwy-ish) it was really sweet how she wanted to stay with him as well.
I've really enjoyed doing this group read and glad I had a chance to read this series which I never read as a child (being of a later generation). I still don't have my own copy of The Black Cauldron so I will try and find myself one for when I fancy a re-read or in case I want to keep the books for posterity.
As tloeffler put it on to the Abhorsen trilogy! (Dang I still need a copy of Lireal & Abhorsen)
Many of the characters had interesting roles to play in this book. I really enjoyed Doli and the Fair Folk in this book. When they melted the ice to defeat the Huntsmen, I cheered!