Sunday, 8 April 2012

Monday Musings: Book Review of The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander

Taran has always sought adventure, but is worried he’ll remain an Assistant Pig Keeper all his life. But when the magical pig Hen Wen disappears, he sets out to save her from the evil Horned King, and ends up on a quest alongside a ragtag bunch of companions.

I remember reading this about 20 years ago, but virtually nothing about it except that I enjoyed it. Rereading, it’s easy to see why I liked it, but it’s also fairly obvious why it wasn’t quite as memorable as books and series like the Snow Spider by Jenny Nimmo or the Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper.

Firstly the good – there are some really strong characters here, notably Taran himself, who develops wonderfully from an immature and somewhat bratty character to a strong leader who can hold his companions together. I also thought Eilonwy, a girl he meets during his quest, was fantastic (although the blurb on the copy I got from the library revealed something which we don’t find out until the last page of the book – why do that? In fairness, it wasn’t exactly a massive spoiler, but it still irritated me.) Gurgi, a strange creature smelling of ‘wet wolfhound’ and continually begging for ‘crunchings and munchings’ was reasonably entertaining although did seem very reminiscent of Gollum from Lord of the Rings. The other heroes and the villains in the book were a little less well-developed.

In fact, I think the main reason it wasn’t as memorable as other fantasies I read at a similar age was that it feels somewhat derivative of Tolkien’s work. That’s not to say it’s bad – it certainly isn’t – but it doesn’t really stand out in its own right. That said, it’s a short read, it’s entertaining, and it has some wonderfully quotable bits – I think my favourite was Lord Gwydion’s comment to Taran. ‘’I do not say my life is worth more than another man's, but I prize it highly.’’

I have to admit that this wasn’t quite the classic I was hoping it to be, but I definitely enjoyed rereading it and am looking forward to continuing with this series.

Recommended to fantasy fans.

If you like this, then my current favourite fantasy series is Curtis Jobling’s wonderful Wereworld, which starts with Rise of the Wolf.

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