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And so we close the cover on yet another classic children’s fantasy adventure that I cannot believe it has taken me this long to discover. After the long and twisting tales of Drizzt Do’Urden in R.A. Salvator’s long-winded trilogy, I was keen to get back to something simple, exciting, and easy to read. This week I finished Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain, with the fifth book, The High King.
The final book in the series, The High King chronicles the ultimate adventure for Taran the Assistant Pig Keeper and his various companions as they rally together under the banner of Prince Gwydion to destroy Arawn the Death-Lord once and for all, when the wicked master of Annuvin steals the legendary sword Dyrnwyn. Facing many perils on their journey north, Taran and his companions must face ultimate sacrifices, tests of character, and more if they are to rid Prydain of Arawn’s evil once and for all.
A perfect way to end a truly remarkable series, The High King expertly ties off all of the central characters’ emotional journeys. Taran, of course, completes his course from boyhood to manhood, both physically and emotionally, and it’s really lovely to see his accrued wisdom play crucial roles in the narrative’s development. But what’s really lovely is that everyone; Eilonwy, Gurgi, Fflewdur etc., all have their physical and emotional stories centred on at some point or other in the book, making it a most delightfully balanced out chronicle.
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The fast-paced action and excitement is still here aplenty, with Alexander’s crisp and clean prose painting a perfect picture of the world without getting readers bogged down in exposition, as well as the drama and gravitas of various scenes being just as poignant and moving as if they had poetic and provocative chapters devoted to them. Alexander is a real advocate of showing rather than telling, which really does work well for a series such as this, which makes it a truly wonderful and underappreciated children’s series.
The Chronicles of Prydain stands strongly in the company of Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, His Dark Materials, and the Deltora Quest series and anyone who has a penchant for these types of reads would benefit from adding it to their library!
Author: Lloyd Alexander, 1968
Published: Holt, Reinhart & Winston. Pictured edition published in 2006 by Usborne Publishing Ltd.
The High King is the fifth and final book in Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain series.
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