Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Classic Children's/YA: The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander

Number of books: 5 (Starting with The Book of Three, first published 1964, finishing with The High King in 1968.)

Availability: Reprinted fairly recently, and there's a gorgeous boxed set available for around £20. 

The Premise: In the land of Prydain, an assistant pig-keeper is thrust into the battle against Arawn Death-Lord and his army. Aided by a fairly ragtag bunch of companions, he embarks on several perilous quests.

Why I Really Like It: This is different from the rest of the books I'm planning on writing about here, because I had only the vaguest memories of them from my childhood when I reread them a year or two ago. In fact, many of those memories are probably of Disney's adaptation of book 2, The Black Cauldron - a decent film, but a hopeless adaptation. What stunned me when rereading them is how strong the characters are. Taran's journey over the course of the five books is as good a character arc as I can ever remember seeing in a fantasy story, while there are others - notably the Princess Eilonwy - who are brilliantly developed supporting characters. It also has lots of excitement, it's incredibly emotional, and has a simply stunning ending.

Best Books: The Black Cauldron - Book one was good without being anything special, but this second book was the one which had me completely hooked. 

Taran Wanderer - The penultimate book in the series could have felt out of place. It sees Taran journey to try and find out who his parents were, and doesn't have all that much to do with the main conflict with Arawn. However, Taran is such a wonderful character and Alexander's writing is so fantastic that this volume is absolutely stunning, as we see Taran mature over the course of his journey. 

The High King - Tempted to say that this final book is neck and neck with Taran Wanderer, but one of the all-time great climaxes puts it slightly ahead of the previous book. BUY TISSUES, though.

Who It Will Appeal To: Other Welsh-inspired books I loved as a child included Jenny Nimmo's Magician Trilogy and Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising sequence. A more modern series also based on Welsh legend is Maggie Stiefvater's fabulous Raven Boys. If you liked any of them, you'll love these.

Others By The Same Author: Lots, but I've never touched any of them. Somehow, I've never thought they could live up to these.

1 comment:

  1. oooh I will definitely look these up! I love books with interesting history!