I’ve been reading a lot lately… and writing a lot. Somehow reading always inspires me to write, and writing always inspires me to read more! It’s a delightful cycle. I’m a relatively fast reader – I’ve read nine books since I got back from Haiti less than a month ago. I don’t always like to read fast though. It really depends on the book that I’m reading.
Sometimes I absolutely love a book and simply can’t put it down, so I devour page after page until I’m finished – it’s like gulping down a cold Dr.Pepper in the middle of the hot summer! Other times, I love a book and I don’t want it to end, so I read extremely slowly, savoring every sentence, every word! – it’s like slowly sipping coffee on a cold winter’s morning and letting the warmth tingle all the way down to your toes. Both Dr.Pepper and Coffee (in my opinion) are equally good. In the same way, one type of book is not better or worse than the other, I just enjoy them differently.
Excuse the rabbit trail! Anyway, everyone says that the one thing that will make you a better author (besides writing of course) is reading! And since I love writing young adult fantasy, I’m going to be exploring the fantasy genre this spring by reading pretty much anything I can get my hands on. Actually this just serves as a good excuse to read lots of books… but don’t tell anyone I said that! ;)
And, I figure, since I’m going to be reading so much, I may as well highlight my favorites on here! So, keep an eye out for the Fantasy Realm posts on here!
I remembered these books from when my older sister was reading them when I was a little kid. I usually tried to read whatever she was reading at the time (a habit that annoyed her to no end because I was always stealing her book when she wanted to read it!). But she must have kept these safely away from me because I didn’t read them until a few weeks ago!
The Prydain Chronicles tell the tales of a young Assistant Pig Keeper – Taran – who longs for a life of adventure… and generally winds up with more adventure than he would have liked, as he fights alongside the noble Prince Gwydion in a continuing battle against the evil Arawn, Lord of the land of Death. He is joined along the way by the feisty red haired Princess Eilonwy, the loyal creature Gurgi, the irrepressible bard Fflewddur (who in his free time also happens to be a king,) and the gruff Doli, one of the Fair Folk as well as a host of other memorable friends and terrifying enemies.
Some aspects of the stories may sound familiar to fans of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy. However, this is due to the fact that both Alexander and Tolkien drew parts of their stories from mythology. In writing the Prydain Chronicles, Alexander drew largely upon the Mabinogen – the Welsh treasury of Mythology.
Though not extremely long (the longest was 218 pages), these stories have definitely become some of my all time favorites. They bear the marks of true fantasy – a story that resonates within and stirs your heart, that makes you think, inspires courage and hope and self sacrifice! The characters are amazing! I could spend forever talking about all of them, but I don’t wish to bore you, so I won’t.
I love Taran the Assistant Pig Keeper. He makes mistakes, feels sorry for himself, and struggles with his own desires for honor and glory. But he always learns from his mistakes and often makes the hard decision to do the right thing. Throughout the five books, Alexander depicts Taran’s growth from a young boy longing for glory to a young man who knows that doing what is right bears far greater rewards than glory.
I have one small disclaimer – these books are fantasy and as such bear the usual elements of enchanters, magicians, and magic, both good and evil. It’s mythology. So, think along the lines of King Arthur or even Norse or Greek mythology. Because of that, I wouldn’t necessarily suggest it for very young children, but it’s great for anyone else (adults too)!
The Book of Three – Taran the Assistant Pig Keeper longs for a life of honor and glory and to fight alongside the noble war leader, Prince Gwydion. His wish is unexpectedly fulfilled when Hen-wen – the pig – goes missing. While searching for the pig, Taran finds himself caught up in a desperate battle against the evil Arawn, Lord of the land of death, and his wicked emissary, the Horned King. Along the way, Taran learns that war is not quite so glorious as it seems.
The Black Cauldron – the deathless hosts of Arawn – the Cauldron Born – are multiplying. Doom hangs over the land. The only way to stop the Cauldron Born is to destroy the black cauldron. Simple? Perhaps not. First, the cauldron must be found! Taran again teams up with his friends Gwydion, Eilonwy, Fflewddur and Gurgi to stop Arawn. But when the arrogant Prince of Pen-Llarcau joins the team, jealousy and strife threaten the mission and time is running short…
The Castle of Llyr – Taran learns that the Princess Eilonwy’s life is in grave danger from the evil enchantress Achren and sets out to save her accompanied by his usual companions as well as a new character, the bumbling but lovable Prince Rhun of Mona! Desperate pursuits, arranged marriages, escapes, battles, and a host of colorful friends and enemies must be met and dealt with before Taran can save Eilonwy…
Taran Wanderer – Torn between his desire to some day marry Eilonwy and the details of his unknown birth, Taran sets out with the faithful Gurgi at his side to try and track down his history. As he travels, he battles thieves, outwits rogues, serves as judge, weaver, blacksmith, and potter, and as usual makes friends and enemies along the way! As a questing story, it has perhaps the least defined plot, and is more a series of adventures than anything else, however, it carries the most character development as Taran grows into manhood. This inner journey along with the lessons he learns are what makes the book great. Along with the High King, this was my favorite of the books!
The High King – At last, Taran gets his wish and becomes a war leader in Gwydion’s army as the prince mobilizes the country for war against the evil Arawn. But Arawn has stolen the powerful sword Dyrnwyn and without it they cannot hope to defeat him! As the last book in the series, the High King is rightfully the largest, most epic, heroic, and most heart rending of all the books. Tragedy, treachery, and sacrifice are common themes in the book, and yet there are other themes as well – dauntless courage, the determination to carry on and hope when all seems lost. In this last epic war against Arawn, Taran finally grows into a man – wise, brave, and confidant but no longer cocky and no longer loving or glorying war in itself. And at the end… well you must read it! I shall leave you with Alexander’s own words about the ending: “whether the ending is happy, heartbreaking, or both, readers must decide for themselves.” I shall only say that I found the ending both heartbreaking and happy, and I loved it. Taran did exactly what I wanted him to. But I will say no more.
All of the books were great and should definitely be read together but my personal favorites are The Book of Three, Taran Wanderer, and the High King! I highly recommend the Prydain Chronicles for any lover of fantasy!
Well, it’s time for me to get back to writing my own book. I had great plans when I sat down to write today… only I got side tracked into writing this post! Oh well!
~ A Servant of the King
Note: Images courtesy of google images search.