In the first part of The Book of Three, we are so obviously on a quest. But someone seems to have forgotten something…
This review covers chapters 1 to 10 of this book, and will contain spoilers.
Taran is bored with his Assistant Pig-Keeper duties, even though his charge is none other than Hen Wen, Prydain’s only oracular pig. He’d rather be doing something more heroic, like making swords and learning to use them.
When Hen Wen escapes and Taran goes after her, he finds himself farther from home than he’s ever been. Soon he begins to realize that heroism is no easy task. With the dreaded Horned King on the loose and King Arawn gathering the forces of evil, Taran must look past his own dreams to warn the population of Prydain – before it’s too late.
Ah, the old Epic Quest, in which A Young Boy meets Interesting People and, presumably, will Find Himself along the way. OK, I said to myself as I sat down with this book last weekend. Let’s see what this one’s got to offer.
Two hours later I was literally screaming at my reading buddies, and wailing about having to stop for the week. Halfway into the first of the Chronicles of Prydain books, and already I’m wondering where this has been all my life.
Let’s rewind a little.
Taran. … Oh, Taran. He is so fanciful and determined and restless, when we meet him in Caer Dallben at the beginning of this story. Those qualities quickly translate into recklessness and impatience as the story goes from 0 to 60 down the Epic Quest racetrack – and it does move quickly. This is a very short book, for what’s essentially an epic fantasy, and if I’m being completely honest I do kind of wish it was longer, that it had room to progress without giving me the reader equivalent of whiplash. But the story doesn’t appear to be a terribly complicated one, and for all that the tropes are fairly well telegraphed, I’m enjoying the twists that freshen them up. Taran is oh so determined to become a hero and be good at everything, but very little time is wasted in demonstrating that just being determined to be good at something isn’t enough. You’ve got to work at it, whether it’s swordfighting or swimming. This is a message I can get behind.
(Seriously, on that last point. I just need to say that, as someone who also can’t swim but who has had a near-drowning incident that still makes me twitch to recall, TARAN YOU CAN’T JUST CHUCK YOURSELF IN THERE AND EXPECT NOT TO SINK. BLOODY HELL.)
And yet, somehow, Our Hero doesn’t drown or get stabbed to death, at least so far. He also doesn’t really appear to be picking up any of life’s subtle hints yet either, though, so my investment in this story comes with quite a bit of bemusement. And eye-rolling.
BUT. The adventure is the thing, is it not? Namely because, in the best tradition of epic adventure fantasy, he meets Interesting People. And oh, how these people are interesting. Again, on paper they’re all fairly tropey character types – a wise old man, a warrior, a bard, an evil queen, the monstrous villain … they’re all here, and this is a wildly entertaining mash-up of D&D (exactly how old is that game…?) and The Lord of the Rings, and I’m here for all of it. I am especially here for Eilonwy, whose purpose as a Magical Girl of sorts is unclear, but who is not wasting any time in becoming the patriarchy-smashing, attitude-checking breath of fresh air in the somewhat irritatingly self-centred world of Taran the Would-Be Hero. Although … Someone really needs to have a talk with her about NOT TAKING SWORDS FROM THE CORPSES OF KINGS IN DUSTY DUNGEONS BECAUSE HELLO. *Considers the castle that just fell down* Then again.
I said this was tropey, folks. I didn’t say it wasn’t fun. Up yours, Evil Queen.
I am somewhat distraught, however, that said castle appears to have fallen down on Gwydion, the silver fox of a warrior, who turned out to be rather more attractive than I’d expected, even with one reading buddy in particular (she knows who she is) looking forward to her reread for precisely that reason.
I mean, he’s obviously Aragorn, right? And that means this is our “dragged into the raging river” moment, right?
HE’S GOING TO TURN UP AGAIN LATER, RIGHT?!
What? I said I was invested in this.
One thing is still bugging me despite all the banter and adventure and drama, though… Where the heck did Hen Wen actually go and are we seriously just going to abandon the runaway pig?
… Oh. Er. That reminds me.
I just realised
— Lisa (@EffingRainbow) January 6, 2018
I WAS HUNGRY OKAY.