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Chronicles of Prydain: The Book of Three

Lloyd Alexander

Average Review Rating Average Rating 8/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Usborne Publishing Ltd

Published : 2004

Copyright : Lloyd Alexander 1964, 2004

ISBN-10 : PB 0-7460-6038-6
ISBN-13 : PB 978-0-7460-6038-4

Publisher's Write-Up

The Chronicles of Prydain - Book 1

Taran is desperate for adventure, something in short supply for a lowly assistant pig-keeper. When the famous oracular pig Hen Wen vanishes, Taran begins a perilous quest which demands all his courage and strength.

Accompanied by his larger-than-life band of followers, including hot-headed Eilonwy and the disgruntled dwarf Doli, Taran confronts the evil forces of the Horned King, the witch Achren, and their army of lifeless cauldron-born warriors.

Written by one of America’s most distinguished authors, Lloyd Alexander has received 2 Lifetime Achievement Awards for Children’s literature

KS2/3 E; Age 10+

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Nadine (090407) Rating (8/10)

Review by Nadine
Rating 8/10
Last year Chrissi and Nigel handed me a rather appealing-looking book - The High King by Lloyd Alexander. I finally got around to picking it up after Christmas but couldn’t make head or tail of it. On closer inspection, of course, it turned out to be the fifth book in The Chronicles of Prydain series, and it clearly required some familiarity with books one to four. So I took my Christmas book tokens to Waterstones…and here I am with my views on Book One.

It was clear at once that The Chronicles of Prydain were loosely based on Welsh mythology - indeed the map of Prydain at the front even looks a bit like Wales. Many of the names are lifted directly from the Mabinogion (medieval accounts of ancient Welsh folklore), although the roles associated with them are altered. Whether borrowed from mythology or invented, all the names are based on the Welsh language, and there is a pronunciation guide in the back for the benefit of anyone who likes to get the sound of a name clear in their head while reading.

It’s a pretty formulaic fantasy plot: Taran, a young nobody from a quiet rural hamlet, wants adventure. But he’s just an assistant pig keeper, spending his days doing little more than taking care of an elderly white pig called Hen Wen. However, his charge is no ordinary pig - she has wisdom beyond the most educated of men. So when something frightens her into running away, Taran is eager to prove he can do more than just muck out the pig pen, and sets off to find her and bring her back.

Of course, it’s never that simple. While following her trail he encounters a shabby-looking stranger in the woods, who explains that the pig’s disappearance is of more significance than Taran could have dreamed. The evil Lord Arawn is preparing his army to march on the kingdom of Caer Dathyl in the north, and has sent his highest lieutenant to steal Hen Wen. Clearly there is something she knows that is of value to the forces of darkness. Now it is more important than ever to get her back.

And so a fairly typical fantasy quest ensues. Taran and his scruffy companion (who is obviously somebody very important undercover - the resemblance to Strider in The Lord of the Rings is apparent at his very first appearance) set out on the trail of the pig, get sidetracked, separated and attacked at frequent intervals, and new characters emerge at various points along the way to join in the fun.

I thought it all seemed rather simplistic at first - there was very little description of surroundings or character development. In fact there was next to nothing in the way of “setting the scene” before the adventure began. But I reminded myself that this is a book for children and therefore needed to be fairly quick paced and not too wordy. So I just sat back and pretended to be nine. It worked pretty well.

In spite of the lack of any great cleverness in the plot - most of what happened was rather predictable - I found myself enjoying Taran’s adventures. It’s a pleasant, easy read with occasional bursts of action, and moments of gentle humour that keep the tone light. I found myself becoming quite fond of the characters towards the end, particularly Hen Wen - the cheerful porcine oracle.

Many of the characters and events have parallels in The Lord of the Rings, so it’s hard to read this without a kind of “been there, done that” feeling. But what story of myth and magic doesn’t resemble Tolkien’s in some way? Besides, there are enough truly original characters and concepts to provide ample interest.

My only gripe, really, is that we never actually discover the significance of the eponymous book. It is introduced early on, and is clearly a tome of great importance and power, but its contents largely remain a mystery. On the whole The Book of Three is a charming and entertaining story, and an ideal introduction to “classic” fantasy for children.

So on to Book Two – The Black Cauldron (which I understand has been made into a Disney film, although I have never seen it). Perhaps here we shall learn more about The Book of Three.
Nadine (9th April 2007)

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