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The Book of Three (The Chronicles of Prydain Book 1) Paperback – May 16, 2006
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The tale of Taran, assistant pig keeper, has been entertaining young readers for generations. Set in the mythical land of Prydain (which bears a more than passing resemblance to Wales), Lloyd Alexander's book draws together the elements of the hero's journey from unformed boy to courageous young man. Taran grumbles with frustration at home in the hamlet Caer Dallben; he yearns to go into battle like his hero, Prince Gwydion. Before the story is over, he has met his hero and fought the evil leader who threatens the peace of Prydain: the Horned King.
What brings the tale of Taran to life is Alexander's skillful use of humor, and the way he personalizes the mythology he has so clearly studied. Taran isn't a stick figure; in fact, the author makes a point of mocking him just at the moments when he's acting the most highhanded and heroic. When he and the young girl Eilonwy flee the castle of the wicked queen Achren, Taran emotes, "'Spiral Castle has brought me only grief; I have no wish to see it again.' 'What has it brought the rest of us?' Eilonway asked. 'You make it sound as though we were just sitting around having a splendid time while you moan and take on.'" By the end, Alexander has spun a rousing hero's tale and created a compelling coming-of-age story. Readers will sigh with relief when they realize The Book of Three is only the first of the chronicles of Prydain. --Claire Dederer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—While the general public may be more familiar with the second book in the series, The Black Cauldron, due to the 1985 Disney film adaptation, true fantasy lovers know The Book of Three as one of the most iconic and influential works of middle grade fiction from the 20th century. Based on Welsh mythology, the tale stars Taran the Assistant Pig-Keeper on a hero's quest, joined by a comic cast of supporting characters. Filled with wit, wordplay, and an epic battle of good vs. evil, Alexander's novel helped pave the way for countless fantasy adventures. Included in this 50th anniversary edition is an introduction by Shannon Hale, an author's note, a rather helpful pronunciation guide, an interview with Lloyd Alexander, a story from The Foundling and Other Tales of Prydain, and the first chapter of The Black Cauldron. The physical presentation will appeal to collectors; this edition features a deep red cloth binding accented with ornate gold and black illustrations on the cover, and deckled edges, befitting a classic. An absolute must-have for fantasy fans. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Like the Lord of the Rings, this book and series is suitable for adolescents, and it can be a little scary and violent for readers younger than 8 or 9.
If you have seen the "Black Cauldron" film this is the book series that "adaptation" was very loosely based upon. Disney, unfortunately, did not do justice to any of the characters from the books, especially the character Eilonwy. (Imagine Disney taking Hermione Granger and making her a damsel in distress that basically whined "Oh, Harry, whatever are we to do?" every five minutes and you will have what Disney did with their film.)
If you want to start your children off with good fantasy (or just need some for yourself) I highly recommend "The Book of Three" to begin that journey. If you want to watch the film "The Black Cauldron": Don't. Read the books first.
This first book in the series would probably be suitable for a smart eight or nine-year-old. I appreciated the fact that while the main characters are believable as children, the author manages not to portray them in an infantile or patronizing way; they are fully conscious and human from the beginning, just as real children are. Fiction, even childrens' fiction, seldom does child characters any justice, but these books are an exception. Alexander paints our first impressions of Prydain with a broad brush, but manages to convey the essence of each character and place in a way will be sustained and embellished throughout the series. Thus we get to watch Taran and Eilonwy engage in real heroics and exercise real wisdom, and in subsequent books we watch them grow up in a way that captures the moral trials of coming of age as few stories, fiction or nonfiction, have managed successfully.
People talk about them in the same breath as Narnia and Lord of the Rings (although they are all primarily aimed at different age groups--or are not aimed at all). I really wish Lloyd Alexander had written more books like these (not more of The Chronicles of Prydain because that would have cheapened it since it concluded so completely). There are some short stores set in the same world but that's about it.
I think these books (and maybe Narnia and LoTR) are the main reason I read fantasy. I am always hoping to find more like them (not complete ripoffs, you know what I mean).
Does anyone know of any other works like these?