Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The Book of Three

The Book of Three (The Chronicles of Prydain, #1)The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The inaugural entry of author Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain opens with protagonist Taran yearning to make a sword, although his master, Coll, would rather he make horseshoes. Dallben, master of the farm where Taran lives, Caer Dallben, and nearly four centuries old, fears the Horned King, the champion of the dark lord of Annuvin, Arawn. Taran becomes an Assistant Pig-Keeper in charge of the oracular porcine Hen Wen, who runs away into the woods, beginning the young hero’s quest. Within the wilderness, Taran witnesses the Horned King, with Gwydion, Son of Don and war-leader of Prydain High King Math Son of Mathonwy, coming to his aid.

Hen Wen’s trail they follow, encountering the simian creature Gurgi, who regularly talks with close-knit words that rhyme, as well as avian gwythaints, which serve as Arawn’s spies and messengers, the Eyes of Annuvin. After an encounter with the Cauldron-Born, Taran is knocked unconscious and finds himself in a cell in the Spiral Castle, home of enchantress Achren. There he meets Princess Eilonwy, Daughter of Angharad, Daughter of Regat, ancestors to the Sea People, of the blood of Llyr Half-Speech, the Sea King, with Achren her aunt and instructor. Taran and Eilonwy escape, meeting the wandering bard Fflewddur Fflam, who accompanies them in their travels.

Wolves eventually attack the party, although they relent when Medwyn sees they are friends of Gwydion’s horse Melyngar, after which they go to a village where Gurgi, who received an injury from Cauldron-Born beforehand, recovers. Taran, Eilonwy, and Fflewddur make the Valley of Ystrad their next destination, braving mountains where a black lake attempts to ensnare then, and they find themselves in the court of the dwarven King Eiddileg of the Kingdom of Tylwyth Teg. Thence the dwarf guide Doli shows them the way to Caer Dathyl, culminating in a battle against the Horned King and his forces.

All in all, while The Book of Three isn’t a terribly-lengthy novel, it definitely packs a punch, given its tight, engaging action and occasionally dialogue and denouement, with an author’s note after the main text noting the story’s inspiration from Welsh mythology, similar to how J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series had its roots in Norse mythos. There are definitely similarities to Tolkien’s literary franchise, although in his time, one could definitely consider Lloyd Alexander the American equivalent of Middle-earth’s creator, and younger audiences in particular, for whom the author intended the Prydain series, will definitely find it an engaging read.

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