Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Review - The High King by Lloyd Alexander

Short review: Arawn reaches his hand out to take Prydain in his grasp. Taran and his friends must struggle and sacrifice to stop him.

The white pig banner
Rallies the free to Taran
Kill the cauldron born

Full review: This is the last book of the main story of the Chronicles of Prydain, and a worthy climax to the series. The bulk of this book describes the war between Arawn and the rest of Prydain, led by High King Math, Prince Gwydion, and the rest of the Sons of Don. Taran and his companions gather together the people he had befriended on his many journeys in the previous books and join Math and Gwydion's side, fighting under Taran's banner of a white pig.

Much of the war goes badly for the heroes: they are betrayed by those they depended upon, sacrifices must be made, good people fall. For a book aimed at a younger audience, the book is definitely dark, and the war quite brutal; many characters who have been in the series for numerous books must give up things that are precious and valuable to them, and many others die. Finally, through a twist that was quite a surprise to me when I read the book the first time (albeit when I was much younger), Arawn is defeated.

But that's not the end. And in many ways, the elements of the book that follow Arawn's defeat are the most important part of the book - the choices and sacrifices Taran and his friends must make in victory are the most critical, and without them, the book (and in many ways, the entire series) would have been a throwaway piece of fluff. In the end, Alexander shows that although victory has its rewards, it definitely has a price that must be paid, both to achieve it and after it has been attained.

Previous book in the series: Taran Wanderer
Subsequent book in the series: The Foundling and Other Tales of Prydain

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  1. Sounds good--I really appreciate it when happy endings come at a cost in fiction... That's real life. :/

    I would like to read this, and I'm definitely going to reccommend it to my little brother, who eats up books faster than we can feed them to him!

  2. I loved this book. It was my favorite.

  3. @Susan Francino: You should have him start with The Book of Three, which is the first book in the series, and read all five. This book derives a fair amount of its poignancy and power from the relationships that are set up in the previous books.

  4. @Julia Rachel Barrett: This is my second favorite in the series, right after Taran Wanderer.