The Chronicles of Prydain

This is a five-volume series, including The Book of Three, The Black Cauldron, The Castle of Lyr, Taran Wanderer, The High King.

TCOPPublished: 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, and 1968

Genre: YA fantasy

Length: 217 pages, 224 pages, 204 pages, 256 pages, 288 pages

Interest: I read this series to Mr. Curiosity, interspersing each series book with something else, so we read the series over several months. It’s a classic fantasy coming-of-age series that I wanted to share with Mr. Curiosity.

Summary: The series is centered around the adventures of Taran, Assistant Pig-keeper to the oracular Hen Wen. He is trying to fight against the forces of evil, personified by Arawn Death-Lord, and he is helped by many friends in his adventures. In the first book, he helps to defeat a giant army gathered by Arawn and led by the Horned King. In the second, he seeks out Orddu, Orwen, and Orgoch in the Marshes to learn how to destroy the Black Cauldron which is used to create the unstoppable undead. In the third, Taran takes Eilonwy to the Ilse of Mona where she’s supposed to learn how to be a proper princess. While on the island, Eilonwy is captured by agents of Achren, and Taran and his friends undertake to find and rescue her. In the fourth, Taran goes around the land of Prydain, nominally in search of the Mirror of Llunet, in the hopes of learning who his parents were and what he will do with with his life. In the final book, we see Taran helping to gather all the forces of good for a final battle against Arawn Death-Lord.

Final thoughts: A classic series that was actually very hard to read out loud. Not only were the names difficult to pronounce (the series is based on Welsh mythology and the names are Celtic and therefore contain a variety of consonants – check out some of the main ones at the Wikipedia entry), but the prose could be quite stilted as well. It’s fine to read to yourself, since you so often gloss over the more awkward of phrases. When you’re reading it out loud, though, you give equal weight to all the words. My favorite of the series was probably Taran Wanderer, and the last book was a bit darker than the others since it was centered so tightly around Arawn and how to defeat him.

Titles comes from: The series title comes from the fact it covers a specific set of history of the country Prydain. The Book of Three refers to the religious book guarded by the wizard Dalben who also owns Hen Wen. The Black Cauldron refers to the device Arawn uses to create his undead and Taran and his friends search for to destroy. The Castle of Lyr is the ancestral home of Eilonwy’s family, where Achren takes Eilonwy to take her powers. Taran Wanderer refers to Taran’s journey around the lad of Pyrdain as he searches for his past and future. The High King gathers the forces to oppose Arawn in the final battle for control of Prydain.

Reading challenges fulfilled: 58/100 in the Read-a-Latte Challenge (I finished the last three this year), and an H in A-Z Reading Challenge (which takes me to 24/26)


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