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The Castle of Llyr: The Chronicles of Prydain, Book 3 Paperback – May 16, 2006
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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“An exciting, highly imaginative, and sometimes profound fantasy of humor and heroism.” ―The New York Times
“Character and dialogue is handled humorously and dextrously, which sets this classic-in-the-making apart from other folklore-based fantasies.” ―Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
From the Publisher
In the imaginary kingdom of Prydain, Princess Eilonwy must leave her friends to go to the Isle of Mona for training as a proper princess. Because Eilonwy has magical powers, she is sought by Achren, the most evil enchantress in the land. Shortly after her arrival on the Isle of Mona, something sinister and secret befalls her. Eilonwy's loyal friends--Taran, the Assistant Pig-Keeper; Flewddur, the bard; and Prince Rhun, her intended husband--realize her peril and set out on an exciting and terrifying mission to rescue her. They encounter great forces of enil as well as private--sometimes painful--revelations in the course of their journey. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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As such, this third volume of the series "The Castle of Llyr," concerns Taran's developing feelings for his friend and companion Princess Elionwy, who is being sent to the Isle of Mona in order to become a proper lady. The enchanter Dallben, with whom the young people live with, has himself ordered it. Neither are particularly pleased with the decision, and Taran is even less pleased to discover that Elionwy's new guardians have plans to betroth her to their son. Prince Rhun of Mona is hapless and clumsy, and jealousy rears its ugly head when Taran becomes acutely aware of his position in life as an Assistant Pig-Keeper.
And yet all that must take a backseat when Elionwy is kidnapped, and Taran must work with Rhun, along with harpist Fflewddur Fflam and the faithful Gurgi, in order to bring her safely home. Their journey takes them into subterranean caves and across mysterious islands, only to find that the object of their adventure has been bewitched by the evil enchantress Achren who plans to use the Princess's latent powers to reclaim control over Prydain.
As well as this, there are other familiar faces, such as the warrior Gwydion and the talkative crow Kaw, (though sadly, Doli doesn't make an appearance) and several other characters that play a part in the action both here and in stories to come: Glew, the "smallest" giant in fiction, the beautiful cat Llyan (who Alexander called "the prototype of cat-greatness") and Prince Rhun, whose clumsiness is offset by his endearing cheerfulness and awareness that he isn't quite the prince he should be. We learn more about Elionwy's heritage, particularly the purpose and nature of her glass bauble, though the full story of her people won't be fully explained until Taran Wanderer (The Chronicles of Prydain). And of course, we get the first romantic overtures between Taran and Elionwy that are both poignant and typically awkward, as you'd expect from adolescents.
The entire series takes place in the land of Prydain, which is heavily influenced by the mythology of Wales, as found in The Mabinogion (Penguin Classics). Though it sounds like your typical fantasy-setting, there is a particular charm to this series, born out of Alexander's love and respect for life, his wit and wordplay, and the wisdom that he manages to infuse into his story without ever sounding preachy or pretentious. These five books, and the companion anthology of short stories set in Prydain's past, are essential reading for any child, to be put on the shelf right next to The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter Paperback Box Set (Books 1-6).
That doesn't mean this isn't a fun and humorous book. It is. Consider it something of a side adventure.
One of the great joys of this series is the steady progression from lighthearted children's fantasy to more adult themes and a grimmer tone, allowing the reader to grow along with the characters. What begins as a light fantasy becomes very serious, and it works well. By the end, you feel as if the characters have taken a life's worth of journeys, learning from them as they went.
The five wonderful books in this series feature an interesting cast of characters. Most of the action centers on Taran, a pig keeper destined for great things. Others, including a stereotypical spoiled princess, a crazed Gollum-like creature, and a hapless bard, take part in a series of increasingly epic adventures.
In this volume, the cast find themselves in another kingdom, where Eilonwy is busy learning to be a lady. A conspiracy of sorts appears, and our hapless heroes find themselves caught up in it. They encounter another batch of odd and interesting creatures, including a giant stuck in a cave too small for him and a giant cat, and grapple with corrupt (or simply irritating) nobles. By the end, we have some new and welcome cast members.
While on the surface this volume is not wholly essential for the broader Prydain story, "The Castle of Llyr" advances Taran and Eilonwy's relationship and introduces some characters who will appear again later. The writing is direct and lively throughout, frequently using humor to disarm serious situations, though the pacing is not as perfect as other volumes.
The Prydain Chronicles, including "The Castle of Llyr," are recommended reading for anyone who enjoys fantasy, especially classic children's fantasy. This series is among the best of children's fantasy literature, walking the fine line between being accessible to young readers and being appealing and engaging enough for adults to enjoy.