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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 the Hardcover edition.
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 the Hardcover edition.
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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.
I love rich world that Lloyd Alexander created and its inhabitants, our heroes Taran, Eilonwy, Gurgi, Fflewdur and good old Doli and all the others. I have grown up with these characters, having read and re-read these books like visiting old friends and family.
Lloyd Alexander shows us, through Taran's eyes that to be a great hero one does not need to be the greatest swordsman or most powerful magician. It is our choices that make us heroes and our friends and companions who make us great. That the simplest and meekest tasks, as a farmer or even that of an Assistant Pig Keeper can be the noblest of all.
I highly recommend this for anyone from 10 to 100. If you have children, read this to them. You will not be disappointed. Someday, when I have a Taran of my own, I will read it to him every day.