Saturday, January 7, 2012
The Book of Three
Dedication: "For the Children who listened, The grown-ups who were patient, and especially for Ann Durell"
First paragraph: "Taran wanted to make a sword; but Coll, charged with the practical side of his education, decided on horseshoes. And so it had been horseshoes all morning long. Taran's arms ached, soot blackened his face. At last he dropped the hammer and turned to Coll, who was watching him critically."
Review: This is the first book in the Chronicles of Prydain and we quickly learn of Taran and his dreams of heroes and adventuring instead of being just a simple Assistant Pig Keeper. What Taran forgets to realize is that heroics is more than slaying dragons and saving damsels in distress. His first realization that it may be less glamorous than expected starts with a bad nights sleep on the ground and quickly becomes a tale of follies and one misadventure after another. But he his nothing if not determined to finish his quest to the end to find Hen Wen, the pig left in his charge.
Along the way he picks up one interesting companion after another and soon the band of travelers prove invaluable to Taran and all the land of Prydain. (One of which pays a marking resemblance to a certain creepy crawly fellow from the Lord of the Rings series).
I was asked to read this book to determine if it was appropriate for a nine or ten year old. Some of the parts are intense, and there is one quick scene where there is mention of men being burned alive inside wicker baskets, but overall it's not too graphic and it avoids going into any great detail about the death that comes with battles. Even the wicker basket scene only got mentioned in half a paragraph or less. As such, this story was definitely written for a younger audience but it was still enjoyable for me. Every good book, according to my husband, starts off with a map. And this book started off with a map so it must be good.
It only took a few hours to read and it was full of action and adventure from start to finish. Taran may have frustrated me at times but I absolutely loved Eilonwy. She was a bit of comic relief and made Taran so much more bearable while, at the same time, absolutely refusing to be a damsel for Taran to rescue. I can't help but love her for that.
I did have a hard time getting past the fact that certain aspects felt like they were stolen right from Lord of the Rings then dumbed down a bit for younger kids. For example, a Gollum character, along with some other situations that I'll avoid mentioning in order to keep from spoiling any of the plot. But if you do decide to read the story I'm sure you'll catch them as well.
The next book in the Chronicles of Prydain series is The Black Cauldron.