Book Review: The Prydain Chronicles

I started The Book of Three, the first book in this classic fantasy series by Lloyd Alexander, with a great deal of skepticism. First of all (with the exception of the Harry Potter series), I am not fantasy fan. Secondly, the series involves five books, and when you have a reading wish list as long as mine, a series of this length is a big commitment. I forged ahead, however, since a member of the Teen Library Council said it was her FAVORITE fantasy series of all time. (She’s a huge Harry Potter fan, too.)

I am so glad I followed through on her recommendation. I devoured it in a couple of weeks. It is an older series (it was around when I was in elementary school!), but it is truly a classic. If you’re looking for something to keep you and/or your upper elementary and middle school children engaged in the long weeks ahead, I would give these books a try.

Yes, there are the typical annoying and unpronounceable fantasy character names (and these are Welsh, too, so they are especially so). But everything else about the series hooked me. You and your children will inevitably start making comparisons to the characters and themes in Harry Potter. There’s Taran, the parentless boy who grows into manhood over the course of the series, and his smart and sassy female foil, Eilonwy. There’s a Dumbledore-like father figure, a Dobby-like character, an early version of Death Eaters, who work for an evil leader . . . you get the idea.

All in all, it’s a slightly simpler take on fantasy themes like good versus evil and what makes a person one or the other; there are lots of musings about love, death, loss, and the search for identity. Alexander also includes a lot of subtle humor into the stories that adults will appreciate.

The Library owns the series in print; of course these books are not available at this time. I found free online copies of each book in the series in Open Library (www.openlibrary.com) and also through the new project of the Internet Archive, the National Emergency Library. (It has over a million free titles you can read on-line or download, and there are no waiting lists.)

The seres, in order, is:

  • The Book of Three
  • The Black Cauldron (a Newbery Honor book and also a Disney movie)
  • The Castle of Llyr
  • Taran Wanderer
  • The High King (a Newbery winner)

Enjoy!

Review by Roberta Jordan, Outreach and Instruction Librarian


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