In a time when there's a new fantasy series every week, many readers have become wary of the genre as a whole. Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles, however, have been around since the 1960s, gaining readers even today and proving their worth as creative fiction all over the world. Like all great literature for children, these five novels appeal just as much to adults—not only are the plots exciting and filled with adventure and wonder, Alexander writes with a freshness and attention to literary style too often lacking in modern writing.
The stories follow the adventures of Taran, a young Assistant Pig-Keeper with a shadowy past and uncertain future. When the mystical pig Hen Wen escapes from his charge, he finds himself on an adventure to discover his identity, combat evil, and determine the future of all Prydain. Inspired largely by Welsh mythology, Alexander draws heavily on images and characters from the Mabinogian, using them not as guidelines but as a foundation from which he builds his own complex mythos.
Everything you'd expect from high fantasy is here—sword fights, chases, evil warlords, deep magic, tender romance. But there's much more than that—genuine character development, a restrained yet descriptive style that moves as quickly as the uncluttered plot, illumination of truth without resorting to moralizing, and refreshing realism despite the fantasy background. By now some of Alexander's inventions might seem a bit cliché, but that's only because what originated with him has been copied so many times by less capable authors.
Taran's quest for honor and justice is just as refreshing as Alexander's abilities as a writer. When so many fantasy "heroes"are disrespectful, individualistic to a fault, and just plain bratty, Taran and the princess Eilonwy distinguish themselves through intelligence, selflessness and overall integrity, even in the face of enemies as terrifying as the gwythaints and the Horned King. Wildly entertaining without being mere escapism, familiar without being derivative, The Prydain Chronicles are high fantasy at its best no matter your age or reading preferences.
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Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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