Sunday, February 8, 2009

Book 3 (for me) The High King by Lloyd Alexander

The High King is the last of The Chronicles of Prydain which tell the story of Taran, an assistant pig-keeper who may be more than he seems. There are five books in the series. The first is The Book Of Three, though many are most familiar with the second book The Black Cauldron. Others are The Castle of Llyr and Taran Wanderer. The books are loosely inspired by Welsh mythology and have maps (at least my old editions do) which is of vital importance in a work of fantasy. I read them as a child and was rereading them this week in order to decide whether to have my oldest read them for a book report or just offer them to him as "good books." I concentrated on The High King because it was the only one which takes place when the characters are adults, and I thought that might make my son disinclined to finish the series.

Alexander won the John Newbery Award for The High King and it is very good, though you get the feeling that the award is really more for the volume of work rather than the merits of The High King. The Black Cauldron was a previous Newbery runner-up.

The series is not on a par with Tolkien, Lewis or even Susan Cooper, but is very enjoyable. There are characters that grated on my nerves as an adult that I remember being favorites as a child and others, whom I had thought dull, took on new life. That seems to me to show a certain strength in the work. I was able to take a new more mature enjoyment from the books. I'll offer them up and see if my son is interested and if he isn't, I'll probably read them aloud.

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