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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
There are books that rattle in your brain, heart and soul, and stay with you, never to be forgotten.
Lloyd Alexander's magnificent series falls into these categories. I first read them at the age of 13 and have just read them again at 35. This series was the first that I did not want to see end. It's what got me started on reading Tolkien, Lewis, Donaldson, Piers Anthony, Dune, and others. I'm glad to see so many people love these books as well.
And why not? The characters are dynamic, engaging and more real than the average fantasy ones. The stories move along nicely with few if any slow moments. The classic elements of good and evil are all here with some twists.
There were some aspects that I was too young to appreciate the first time. One was the humor, most noticeable in The Book of Three, as we see some of the characters getting to first know each other. The other aspect was the theme/message that the way of the warrior is not the only path to nobility, honor, and courage (or to adulthood). There is as much honor in taking care of a garden as there is in being a warrior, to very loosely paraphrase one of the characters. In this day and age, when so much of the culture says be the biggest, baddest, toughest, strongest, richest etc person who destroys or gobbles up things, the message of taking care of one's garden, creating something of beauty be it a woven cloak or a clay pot, or honoring a friend's request is refreshing and not heard enough.
To the other reviewers who feel Alexander borrowed characters and motifs heavily from Tolkien, these have been part of literature and mythology for a long time. Long BEFORE Tolkien. If Dallben is Gandalf, well, Gandalf is Merlin. And Merlin was borrowed from other myths or folktales. Alexander borrowed some from The Mabinogen, the Welsh treasury of mythology. Tolkien borrowed from Beowulf and other English sources. These stories have been recreated or recast for ages. Sure, there are similarities but then this is a genre where dwarves, wizards, and enchanted objects are the norm. But assistant Pig-Keepers, frustrated ex-giants who whine about their lack of stature, a traveling bard with a second job as a King, or a trio of witches with an unusual, unpredicable sense of logic who switch identities daily(they deserve a book of their own!)? Hardly. And where have you ever seen a character quite like Fflewdur Flam? (Well, maybe in Dickens or Mark Helprin's A Winter's Tale)
For the kids (or adults) who love Harry Potter: you've got till July before the 4th book is out. There are no Quidditch matches but Taran may remind you of Harry and Dallben may remind you of Dumbledore. Check these five books out. (But avoid the inaccurate animated version of The Black Cauldron)
I've read the Lord of the Rings twice and for a long time considered it the best book I'd ever read. But it doesn't hold quite the special spot in my heart that the Prydain books do. And at least Lloyd Alexander spared us his version of those boringly long elf or dwarf songs and poems.
The tale of Taran and friends has everything a great children's book should: adventure, danger, good, evil, love and death. And, there is lots of humor, too, which you don't always find in similar clasics. The writing is great throughout -- this is not Goosebumps -- and the child who has the privilege of reading the Chronicles will surely be changed. The story, based on Welsh legends, subtly explores the great mysteries of life, and teaches lessons about bravery, honesty, compassion and devotion, without ever being preachy or obvious.
These books belong on the same shelf as the L'Engle Time trilogy, Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising Sequence, the Narnia Books and a small number of others.
Buy this for a favorite kid (maybe one that has gotten hooked on reading through "Harry Potter"), but get it for yourself, too.
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.
Taran is a pre-teen boy who is bored with his job and friends and village. He longs for adventure and, as he soon finds out, he should be careful what he wishes for! Looking for a runaway pig, Taran soon runs into danger, and must venture far from his home. Along the way he meets characters such as Eilonwy and Gwydion who will help him, and others he must fear.
Sometimes Eilonwy's ubiquitous use of metaphors gets tiresome, and the volume would benefit from the inclusion of a map, but overall this is a highly readable story with an interesting cast of characters, good pacing, minimal violence, positive character development, teamwork and cooperation, adventure and lessons about the consequences of choice.