As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

July 11, 2011

THE CHRONICLES OF PRYDAIN by Lloyd Alexander, 1964-1968

The Book of Three (The Chronicles of Prydain Book 1)Since The Book of Three was first published in 1964, young readers have been enthralled by the adventures of Taran the Assistant Pig-Keeper and his quest to become a hero. Taran is joined by an engaging cast of characters that includes Eilonwy, the strong-willed and sharp-tongued princess; Fflewddur Fflam, the hyperbole-prone bard; the ever-faithful Gurgi; and the curmudgeonly Doli--all of whom have become involved in an epic struggle between good and evil that shapes the fate of the legendary land of Prydain. (Amazon)

Review by Natalie Gorna, Reviewer for the Fresno Examiner

Whenever I ask anyone if they've heard of The Chronicles of Prydain or the author of the series, Lloyd Alexander, it’s usually older generations who favor me with an enthusiastic response and a list of their favorite novels. 5 out of 5 people I ask from my generation give me a blank stare if I even mention Lloyd Alexander’s name. The Chronicles of Prydain are his most famous series, and perhaps the masterpiece of his lifetime’s creations. It’s a five-volume series, but every volume has helped me to fall completely in love with literature, especially fantasy fiction.

An interesting and propelling reason to just try The Book of Three (volume#1) is that Alexander’s mythical series is somehow an anachronistic cross between The Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series. Is this bad news if you’re anti either of the series I just named? No, because you don’t have to make these connections, counting the fact that the last volume in The Chronicles of Prydain was published more than 25 years before J.K. Rowling submitted her first manuscript. As for Tolkien, he was a contemporary writer, but the world of The Lord of the Rings is much more complicated than Prydain could ever be. Apart from some particular similarities and a definite Celtic aura, The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Prydain were (and still are) truly oceans apart in content and storyline construction.

Okay, some similarities: Taran, the main character and hero of The Chronicles of Prydain, is an orphan just like Harry Potter, having escaped a premature death and destined to defeat an ancient evil. No matter how evil Voldemort is as an antagonist, winning top spot in fantasy literature as a super-villain, Arawn can match him in despicable deeds and hiring merciless, cruel mercenaries (Arawn is Taran’s fiercest enemy, being immortal and yet mortal at the same time). Like Aragorn, Taran will become a warrior and a leader of men, a fate he tries to avoid. As for Prydain, it is a land a little like Middle Earth, a representation of what a young earth could have been like with magic and magical beings/creatures, and how that co-existence of magic and reality could have ceased. The character of Dallben is very similar to the characters of Gandalf and Albus Dumbledore…or should I say that the latter is similar to Dallben? Also, all volumes in The Chronicles of Prydain have a strong focus on the themes of mortality and immortality.

I know some fans of Alexander have expressed a firm dislike of Taran’s character, saying that he acts too immature, but it’s enjoyable to watch Taran mature and grow out into this exceptional person and the man “who must be king.” I have to remark that Alexander really knew how to develop characters you’d instantly love and those you’d love to hate. Princess Eilonwy (Taran’s friend and future love interest), the amusing Fflewddur Flam, Gurgi, Doli of the Fair Folk…wonderful characters I would be honored to call my friends in the real world, although I’m fast friends with them in the book world. Do I personally have a favorite volume in the series? No. Amazing as it may be, I love each of the volumes equally, and I have favorite scenes from each one that I like to muse over, like pleasant memories. On a side note, The Foundling and Other Tales of Prydain is a prequel (unofficial volume#6) to The Chronicles of Prydain, a collection of intriguing stories that give background information on some major characters from the series.

While Alexander includes Welsh mythology in every volume of The Chronicles of Prydain, he really won my admiration through his direct writing style, the way that he interpreted truth and wisdom, love, death, and the purpose of life itself. This series and each of its volumes earns my 5 out of 5 star recommendation to every reader on this planet. The Chronicles of Prydain is my all-time favorite series. It has everything: exciting battle scenes; humorous moments that still make me laugh; a gigantic, music-loving cat; fairies who have problems with their tempers; a self-named bard whose harp harps him on about telling the truth as it is; a princess who knows how to fight; and Taran, a boy who turns into a man through hardship, suffering, and the burden of his own destiny. I can only conclude that Alexander was truly a master at what he did.

Market: Middle Grade/Young Adult Fantasy Fiction
Language: Mild
Sensuality: Mild
Violence: Moderate (there is fighting, battles, killing, etc.)
Mature Themes: death, identity, relationships, good vs. evil, war, prejudice

Book formats:


Anonymous said...

This is where I admit to having a HUGE fictional crush on Adaon...

I LOVE the Prydain Chronicles and they rank right up there in my all-time favorite books. They're ones that I read over and over and over and could never get tired of. People who haven't read them are missing out!

Natalie Gorna said...

It's so GREAT to hear that someone other than myself loves this series!!! I even started a Facebook group to promote Lloyd Alexander's works... :) Anyway, thanks for reading my review!

MKHutchins said...

I have a very tattered, mismatched set of these. I read and re-read them as a kid, then read them aloud to my little brothers. I love that Taran doesn't know about his past for the longest time -- he's just a boy who's tired of making horse shoes and wants to be a hero (which is, of course, a lot more work than it looks). Amazing books. It took my a long time to convince one of my little brothers that he really shouldn't plan on naming any future children Gurgi.

pie said...

This is such a great series! (I'm 34 - I don't know where this places me in your generational timeline.) I think my love of fantasy began with these books. Thank you, Lloyd Alexander!

Natalie Gorna said...

@pie, I was leaning more towards the new generation of teenagers as my generation, which is close to where I'm at in terms of age. ;)

But again, I'm psyched to hear about more fans of this wonderful series...perhaps if we Lloyd Alexander fans stick together and create a movement, we'll convince Walt Disney Pictures to make massive live-action film adaptations of each volume in The Chronicles of Prydain!!!

Anonymous said...

Love this series! And I think a huge part of what makes it work is Taran's transition from an adventure-seeking boy to a wise young man throughout the course of the novels. The fact that he gets there after many painful sacrifices really makes you like his character more and more.

Though I gotta say, my favorite character is Eilonwy. She's hilariously scatterbrained and yet pragmatic at the same time. I really got a kick out of her.

I discovered this series when I was 21 (a couple years ago). I only wish I had discovered it when I was younger, because I think I would have liked it even more. Nevertheless, I've read it about five times through already!