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"The Chronicles of Prydain" is one of those fantasy series that is not only a classic, but really timeless -- it's a mishmash of heroic fantasy and Welsh folklore, a few rungs below "Lord of the Rings" and a few inches down from "Chronicles of Narnia." And Lloyd Alexander's writing is absolutely sublime, melding sorrow and humor even as the heroes fight to save the world.

"The Book of Three" opens with Assistant Pig-Keeper Taran yearning for adventure -- and getting more than he bargains for when he chases the pig into the woods, and is nearly run down by a sinister horned rider. Soon he teams up with a wandering king-minstrel, a sharp-tongued princess and a furry creature called Gurgi to save Prydain from the power of the Horned King.

"The Black Cauldron" has Taran and the others setting out to destroy Arawn Deathlord's evil cauldron, which turns dead men into unkillable zombies. But other forces are after the cauldron, including three peculiar witches who insist on trading something for the cauldron. What is worse, the company faces treachery from someone in their own camp...

"The Castle of Llyr" ties up some loose ends from the first book, as Princess Eilonwy is sent to the isle of Mona to become a fine lady. But she has barely arrived when she is kidnapped by a minion of the evil enchantress Achren, her "aunt." Taran sets out to save her, but must team up with the young man who wishes to marry Eilonwy -- even though Taran is rapidly falling in love with her.

"Taran Wanderer" has Taran setting out to discover his past, since he feels he can't ask Eilonwy to marry him if he is lowborn. With only Gurgi at his side, he encounters evil wizards, malevolent bandits, and finally learns that his father just might be a shepherd... until a new revelation leads him to learn of his true worth.

"The High King" wraps up the saga, with Taran returning home. But no sooner has he arrived than he learns that noble Prince Gwydion has been half-killed -- and the magical sword Dyrnwyn has been stolen by Arawn Deathlord. Now the heroes set out one and for all to attack Arawn's stronghold and get back the sword -- but how can they defeat a deathless army and a shapeshifting enemy?

Take two parts "Lord of the Rings," add a bit more humor and comedy, and stir in bits and pieces of Welsh mythology. That pretty much sums up the Prydain Chronicles, which is one of the rare series that is meant for kids, but is as rich an experience for adults. Even better, if they know the origins of the old legends and myths that make up the edges of these stories. Alexander populates this little world with evil enchantresses, deathless warriors, eager teenagers and talking crows, all the while coming up with an original storyline that doesn't smack of lifted legends.

In a sense, the whole series is a coming-of-age story, where Taran learns wisdom, maturity, loss and love. Oh yeah, and that that Chinese curse about interesting times is quite correct. Princess Eilonwy and the bard-king Fflewddur Fflam add a bit of comic relief, but they are also strong characters in their own right, as is the fuzzy sidekick Gurgi, who goes from being an annoyance to a loyal and lovable friend.

The one downside? Apparently this collection does not include "The Foundling," which is part of the Prydain Chronicles, even if it's not strictly necessary to the narrative.

"The Chronicles of Prydain" are fantasy at its best, mingling myth and legend with a fast-paced plot and endearingly quirky characters. Definitely not something to miss.
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on January 19, 2012
I bought this for my 9 year old to read, and have found myself entranced once again with a series that is both exciting, dark, and heroic. My son has taken to reading it aloud to me while i cook so we can share the adventure together.
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on December 4, 2011
Finally, books I remember enjoying as a kid that still stand up to re-reading as an adult!

They are sometimes described as coming-of-age stories, and that is true in the best sense of the term. Alexander is deeply concerned with growing up, and he examines many of its central, deepest, and most profound aspects, such as discovering one's personal identity, and responsibility. Each book in the series looks at these themes in different ways and builds on them a little more. My favorite in the series, Taran Wanderer (which I had expected to enjoy the least), deals with these issues so simply and directly that it acquires an almost allegorical quality. He teaches many important life lessons that are every bit as relevant to us grown-ups as to young adolescents just beginning to struggle with these issues. And he does so through engaging stories and a memorable cast of characters. From now on, whenever I find myself in a situation that tests my courage or integrity, all I have to do is think to myself, "A Fflam never falters!"

Some people like to complain about the supposed similarities between these books and those of Tolkein, but apart from some basic structural features stemming from their common mythological roots, there really isn't a lot of similarity in the details. Even in the most obviously similar part---the ending---what is really interesting is how it differs. I can't say much without giving it away, but let's just say that Alexander, to his credit, ultimately says almost the exact opposite of Tolkein. No, Alexander's fantasy world isn't as complex and well-developed as Tolkein's, but these books were written for a younger audience, and let's face it, nobody can stand up to a comparison with Tolkein as far as that goes. I think if people, of whatever age, take these books on their own terms, they will find them to be a rewarding experience.
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Lloyd Alexander's "Chronicles of Prydain" have become a classic staple of fantasy literature, a few rungs below "Lord of the Rings." In this volume, all six books in his series are brought together, showing all of Prydain's beauty, richness, humor and sorrow as one big book.

"The Book of Three" opens with Assistant Pig-Keeper Taran yearning for adventure -- and getting more than he bargains for when he chases the pig into the woods, and is nearly run down by a sinister horned rider. Soon he teams up with a wandering king-minstrel, a sharp-tongued princess and a furry creature called Gurgi to save Prydain from the power of the Horned King.

"The Black Cauldron" has Taran and the others setting out to destroy Arawn Deathlord's evil cauldron, which turns dead men into unkillable zombies. But other forces are after the cauldron, including three peculiar witches who insist on trading something for the cauldron. What is worse, the company faces treachery from someone in their own camp...

"The Castle of Llyr" ties up some loose ends from the first book, as Princess Eilonwy is sent to the isle of Mona to become a fine lady. But she has barely arrived when she is kidnapped by a minion of the evil enchantress Achren, her "aunt." Taran sets out to save her, but must team up with the young man who wishes to marry Eilonwy -- even though Taran is rapidly falling in love with her.

"Taran Wanderer" has Taran setting out to discover his past, since he feels he can't ask Eilonwy to marry him if he is lowborn. With only Gurgi at his side, he encounters evil wizards, malevolent bandits, and finally learns that his father just might be a shepherd... until a new revelation leads him to learn of his true worth.

"The High King" wraps up the saga, with Taran returning home. But no sooner has he arrived than he learns that noble Prince Gwydion has been half-killed -- and the magical sword Dyrnwyn has been stolen by Arawn Deathlord. Now the heroes set out one and for all to attack Arawn's stronghold and get back the sword -- but how can they defeat a deathless army and a shapeshifting enemy?

Finally, "The Foundling" fills in a few of the gaps with short stories that illustrate the backstory of the Prydain novels. Among the stories are the tragic history of Dyrnwyn, how the wizard Dallben was reared by the three witches (and where he got the Book of Three), and the love story of Eilonwy's parents.

Take two parts "Lord of the Rings," add a bit more humor and comedy, and stir in some Welsh mythology. That pretty much sums up the Prydain Chronicles, which is one of the rare series that is meant for kids, but is as rich an experience for adults. Even better, if they know the origins of the old legends and myths.

In a sense, the whole series is a coming-of-age story, where Taran learns wisdom, maturity, loss and love. Oh yeah, and that that Chinese curse about interesting times is quite correct. Princess Eilonwy and the bard-king Fflewddur Fflam add a bit of comic relief, but they are also strong characters in their own right, as is the fuzzy sidekick Gurgi, who goes from being an annoyance to a loyal and lovable friend.

"The Chronicles of Prydain" are fantasy at its best, mingling myth and legend with a fast-paced plot and endearingly quirky characters. Definitely not something to miss.
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on October 28, 2011
I fell in love with these books when they were first read aloud to me as a child, and they remain just as wonderful now that I'm an adult. The tale is of adventure and daring, of finding oneself and coming-of-age. But the best thing about these books are their truly unforgettable characters.

The story unfolds in the fantasy realm of Prydain, a world steeped in Welsh mythology. Taran, a young Assistant Pig Keeper (to a very special pig) longs to be a hero, but finds heroism to be quite different than he expected when he is caught up in the strange deeds of his time. He is joined in his adventures by Eilonwy (a loquacious princess), Fflewddur Fflam (a bard whose harp strings break when his tales stray out of the realms of truth), and Gurgi (a loyal though scruffy creature who takes delight in his "crunchings and munchings"). One comes to expect the unexpected: deathless warriors, talking crows, invisible dwarves, melancholy giants, evil enchantresses, giant cats, and prophetic pigs.

Full of adventure and charm, this series will captivate young and old alike. They're wonderful books to read aloud as a family. I'm delighted to see them re-issued in a beautiful boxed set.
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on November 7, 2013
THIS IS THE BEST SERIES OF BOOKS ever written for children. There is more wisdom, adventure, and life-lessons contained in these books than any other series, including Harry Potter and/or The Hunger Games. The Prydain series is best for a good reader, grades 5-7....While based on Welsh Mythology,the lessons are those applicable to anyones growing up. I taught this series of books in my "gifted reading" classes for over 35 years....the series was loved by all.

BTW, 2 of the 5 books won major awards for children's literature. Mr Alexander died only several years ago. He based this series on some of his "lessons" learned while fighting in WWII. This is classic good vs evil at it's best.
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on November 24, 2012
I tried reading these in 3rd grade, but they were too complex. So I tried again in 4th grade, still too hard. But persistence pays off and finally, in 5th grade, I could read them on my own. Unlike LOTR (which I graduated to in the summer between grades 7 and 8), this series actually features a strong female character. Eilonwy, the princess with the red-gold hair, refuses to stay behind where it is safe, while the lead character Taran has all the adventures. Eilonwy was the character who encouraged my love for fantasy. The memory of her led me to seek out female authors of fantasy as I grew up. Alexander must have daughters because he has written other books with strong girl characters, something which is missing from too many novels of the Quest. Read these books to your daughters. May your little princess be inspired by the courage of this heroic young woman with her red-gold hair and her golden bauble!
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on November 24, 2015
I feel funny reviewing books that are this timeless. I read these books to my children who have now grown-up and made me a grandparent. They've read these books to their own children now, so I thought I'd reread them to see if the magic was still there. It most emphatically is. These books are magnificent classics and beautifully suited to be read to children before bedtime. I am delighted to report that these books totally engrossed me once again. If you're a new reader of the series, you are in for a treat.
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Lloyd Alexander's "Chronicles of Prydain" have become a classic staple of fantasy literature, a few rungs below "Lord of the Rings" and a few inches down from "Chronicles of Narnia." In this volume, all six books in his series are brought together, showing all of Prydain's beauty, richness, humor and sorrow as one big book.

"The Book of Three" opens with Assistant Pig-Keeper Taran yearning for adventure -- and getting more than he bargains for when he chases the pig into the woods, and is nearly run down by a sinister horned rider. Soon he teams up with a wandering king-minstrel, a sharp-tongued princess and a furry creature called Gurgi to save Prydain from the power of the Horned King.

"The Black Cauldron" has Taran and the others setting out to destroy Arawn Deathlord's evil cauldron, which turns dead men into unkillable zombies. But other forces are after the cauldron, including three peculiar witches who insist on trading something for the cauldron. What is worse, the company faces treachery from someone in their own camp...

"The Castle of Llyr" ties up some loose ends from the first book, as Princess Eilonwy is sent to the isle of Mona to become a fine lady. But she has barely arrived when she is kidnapped by a minion of the evil enchantress Achren, her "aunt." Taran sets out to save her, but must team up with the young man who wishes to marry Eilonwy -- even though Taran is rapidly falling in love with her.

"Taran Wanderer" has Taran setting out to discover his past, since he feels he can't ask Eilonwy to marry him if he is lowborn. With only Gurgi at his side, he encounters evil wizards, malevolent bandits, and finally learns that his father just might be a shepherd... until a new revelation leads him to learn of his true worth.

"The High King" wraps up the saga, with Taran returning home. But no sooner has he arrived than he learns that noble Prince Gwydion has been half-killed -- and the magical sword Dyrnwyn has been stolen by Arawn Deathlord. Now the heroes set out one and for all to attack Arawn's stronghold and get back the sword -- but how can they defeat a deathless army and a shapeshifting enemy?

Finally, "The Foundling" fills in a few of the gaps with short stories that illustrate the backstory of the Prydain novels. Among the stories are the tragic history of Dyrnwyn, how the wizard Dallben was reared by the three witches (and where he got the Book of Three), and the love story of Eilonwy's parents.

Take two parts "Lord of the Rings," add a bit more humor and comedy, and stir in bits and pieces of Welsh mythology. That pretty much sums up the Prydain Chronicles, which is one of the rare series that is meant for kids, but is as rich an experience for adults. Even better, if they know the origins of the old legends and myths that make up the edges of these stories. Alexander populates this little world with evil enchantresses, deathless warriors, eager teenagers and talking crows, all the while coming up with an original storyline that doesn't smack of lifted legends.

In a sense, the whole series is a coming-of-age story, where Taran learns wisdom, maturity, loss and love. Oh yeah, and that that Chinese curse about interesting times is quite correct. Princess Eilonwy and the bard-king Fflewddur Fflam add a bit of comic relief, but they are also strong characters in their own right, as is the fuzzy sidekick Gurgi, who goes from being an annoyance to a loyal and lovable friend.

"The Chronicles of Prydain" are fantasy at its best, mingling myth and legend with a fast-paced plot and endearingly quirky characters. Definitely not something to miss.
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on September 5, 2014
Alexander wrote these Chronicles for older children and I first read them over thirty years ago when my children were reading them. I purchased the series and reread them to see how they stood the test of time. Taran's journey from boyhood to manhood, and fighting to defend Prydain against the enchantments of evil indeed has much to say to today's children. Like the modern movies in the How to Train Your Dragon series, Alexander does not resile from tragedy and sorrow as part of life. I wouldn't be surprised if Alexander was writing today if Eilionwy was even feistier today, though she is independent and fighting gender stereotypes from the beginning. It's a rollicking good yarn for both genders, but with maturity and wisdom distiller for younger readers. There are Dwarves, zombies by another name, enchanters, warriors and heroes. Beautifully written, crafted with grace and humour, I'm looking forward to introducing the series to my grandchildren.
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