• Book

The book of three

by Alexander, Lloyd.

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Where To Find It

Call number: J Fiction / Alexander, Lloyd, J Fiction (Paperback) / Alexander, Lloyd

Community Reviews

I liked it

The hero seems like anything but heroic. Lots of references to Celtic mythology. Has held up for 50 years.

A Weak Begining to a Notable Series

This is the first book of "The Chronicles of Prydain" certainly a classic fantasy series and the inspiration of the Disney movie "Black Cauldron". Readers accustomed to more modern writers will, however, need to adjust their expectations. This has all the symptoms of a fine fantasy novel. There is a hero who starts out as a pig keeper's assistant, a princess who is also a sorcerers apprentice, a drowsing wizard, an evil dark magician, and an oracular pig. But the book ends without anything really paying out. There is a quest, which the hero survives by luck rather than skill, the magician does no magic, and the pig delivers no oracles. Some characters accumulate, each defined by their distinguishing quirk, which quickly gets old. The "Book of Three" in title is around, but nobody does anything with it. It all seems rather pointless.

But, of course, this is just the first book of the series. If you read the next two, "The Black Cauldron" and "The Castle of Llyr" you'll find more of the same. Huh.

If you persevere (and you should) you'll reach the fourth book "Taran Wanderer" where Lloyd Alexander does the one thing most likely to make the series even worse, but instead, somehow, makes it much better. He turns it into an allegory. Our hero, the pig keeper's assistant, evidently tired of all his pointless questing with annoying companions, dumps the companions and heads off on his own to find himself. And what he finds, in a sequence of allegorical adventures, seemed like real, deep, wisdom to me. This is the book that makes the series worth reading.

Finally, in the fifth book, "The High King", our hero takes up his quest again, and you finally get all the deferred payoffs from all the previous books. Someone consults the Book of Three, the oracular pig delivers an oracle, the sleepy wizard wakes up and does some magic, good triumphs and evil is defeated. After such a long wait, it's very fun to finally see things work themselves out.

One thing that has always bugged me though is that through the series the princess, who started out as a sorcerer's apprentice, undergoes a reverse hero's quest. Instead of getting more and more powerful and wise, she is steadily trimmed back to being more and more of a proper young lady. Phooey!

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