The Book of Three (Chronicles of Prydain, #1) The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander

It’s always a gamble, rereading childhood favorites. You hope that at least you won’t be disappointed, that at least you’ll recognize why it meant something to you. You tell yourself that it’s okay, some books just appeal more to kids than adults. You cross your fingers and hope that like A Wrinkle in Time or The Giver or Mary Poppins, it exceeds all those expectations and ends up being that rare book that was great as a kid, but is amazing as an adult.

Thanks, Lloyd Alexander. It all came back to me when I listened to the audiobook – Taran’s foolish but earnest personality, Gurgi’s crunchings and munchings, the landscape, the threat of real evil, Fflewddur’s harp strings, Hen Wen running off – and let’s not forget Eilonwy. Fantastically sharp Eilonwy! Did I find her a kindred spirit already or did I try so hard to be like her? I came to the end of the book – always hard to gauge on an audiobook – and I immediately knew it was about to end because I remembered that final barb. Taran stammers along about something “But – I didn’t think -” and Eilonwy replies, “You usually don’t.” Whether she rubbed off on me or not, it turns out I have an abiding affection for that sharp tongue.

Alexander succeeds at so many things, but one more I have to point out – he wrote a kind of fantasy that I haven’t seen recently. It’s fairly high fantasy, with the quests and the evil lords and the magic, but it’s so perfectly suited to a young audience. It’s a series, yes, but the kind of series where the main action wraps up at the end of each book. It’s got adventure and excitement and might be the teensiest bit scary to a very young reader, but it’s short and fresh and approachable and fun all at the same time. It would be, I think, a great fantasy series to cut your teeth on. Or to reread and appreciate as an adult. I’m so looking forward to spending four more books with these characters.

And a word about the audio version – splendid.  Okay, a few more words – this would make a great listen as a family, it’s clear but enthusiastic, and I finally am able to remember the correct pronunciations of all those tricky Welsh names.

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