Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Review - Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander

Short review: Taran searches for his heritage and along the way inadvertently finds the man he is meant to be.

To find his parents
Taran quests across the world
And then finds himself

Full review: Of the five books that make up the Chronicles of Prydain, this one is the most oddly structured. It is also my favorite. Following the events in The Castle of Llyr, Taran decides he must find out about his true parentage and sets out accompanied by Gurgi. First he seeks out the witches of the Marshes of Morva, but since they will only trade for information (and being poor, Taran has nothing to trade), he settles for being told of the magical Mirror of Llunet faraway in the mountains, which he is told will show his true heritage. He shelters with a farmer, settles a dispute for King Smoit, rescues Doli and the fair folk from the power of the evil wizard Morda, runs afoul of the mercenary Dorath, lives with Craddoc, a farmer he believes is his father, and studies the trade crafts of smithing, weaving, and pottery with master craftsmen from the Free Commots. Taran finds the Mirror, a pool of still water in the cave, but it is destroyed by Dorath after Taran views only a glimpse, which reveals only his own reflection.

Taran in this book is a direct contrast to the Taran of The Book of Three. While Taran in The Book of Three wanted to become someone else: A hero, a warrior, someone famous and rich; the Taran in this book is looking for who he really is. Where Taran in The Book of Three jumps without thinking and fails at almost everything he tries, Taran here is wise enough to accept instruction, and consequently, ends up succeeding at almost every task he takes up. Without realizing it, Taran has grown up and become the hero he wanted to be. In Taran Wanderer, Alexander has created an almost perfect coming of age story, showing how a child becomes an adult, and how finding oneself is the most important element of that journey.

Previous book in the series: The Castle of Llyr
Subsequent book in the series: The High King

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  1. @Julia Rachel Barrett: It is. As I said, I think that Taran Wanderer is an almost perfect coming of age story. I also love how the things that Taran does in this book so directly connect to the events of the next one in the series, giving a real sense of continuity to the story, and showing how a true leader is connected to his followers.