The Black Cauldron (The Chronicles of Prydain, #2) The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander

While the plot stands on its own, the characters and world of the books are best appreciated if you start with The Book of Three. (Remember when fantasy series didn’t leave you hanging off an enormous cliff at the end of each installment? Okay, I exaggerate.) The plot concerns part of the ongoing effort to defeat Arawn, but as with the first book, this is really just a backdrop for exploring what it means to be a hero and how you interact with the people around you. That makes it sound thoughtful and dull, but the story is lively and funny, with a few bittersweet moments and some excellent characters. There’s plenty of action, but the characters aren’t thoughtless. The old gang from The Book of Three reunites, and my favorite scene might be their encounter with the three witches, Orddu, Orwen, and Orgoch.

As with the first book, this one is narrated by James Langton, who does an excellent job at differentiating between characters’ voices (you always know who’s talking) and giving the story both a sense of thoughtfulness and momentum at the same time. I’ll definitely be listening to the rest of the series.

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