The High King, Part 1 (Chronicles of Prydain #5)

In the first half of THE FINAL PRYDAIN BOOK (*tiny sob*), not much is what I expected, but everything I wanted.

Also it is SUPER DRAMATIC.

Spoilers for chapters 1-10 follow.

 

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So Taran has come home from his wandering (see what I did there), and hooray, the gang’s getting back together … But they’re getting back together because Arawn (boo, hiss) has deployed his biggest, sneakiest trick to attack Gwydion and steal Dyrnwyn.

What’s that sneaky trick? Oh, just THE ABILITY TO LOOK LIKE ANYBODY ELSE HE PLEASES. In this case, Taran himself.

Yeah, that’s not super creepy or anything. *Looks suspiciously at absolutely everybody*

So of course, now The Final Battle must be fought, to defeat Arawn once and for all and hopefully, y’know, get back all the super-powered stuff he’s stolen over the years.

… Grown men getting into a gigantic fight over a sword. There’s something to be said about that, and it’s probably something snarky because it’s coming from me.

BUT ANYWAY. This! This is the book I’ve been wanting to read all series, because the characters are finally in a place where they’ve grown and matured enough to take this turn of events as seriously as it ought to be taken – especially Taran. And while some things will never change about them (throw the damn smoke bomb, Gurgi, THROW IT), all of the personal growth lends itself well to the sense of an epic finale, here.

There is still the need for a significant amount of time to pass in a short number of pages – forces must be gathered, weapons and other necessities supplied, etc – but for once it feels, to me, as though it’s passing and not simply being fast-forwarded. We’ve been building toward this for four books, and this is something that shouldn’t feel rushed. The beats feel well-timed rather than simply being plot/character boxes to be ticked before moving on to the next one.

Case in point, I absolutely knew that Something Bad Was Going To Happen at the halfway point, and it would likely involve Pryderi when we finally met him, and LO AND BEHOLD.

What a dick.

For now, though, I want to talk about Achren. Early in the book, when it’s discovered that Arawn’s made his play for Gwydion’s sword (stop sniggering back there), she puts herself forward as a means of either recovering it, or taking Arawn out for good, or heck, maybe both. She knows him and presumably his castle better than anyone (as she makes a point of explaining to Eilonwy, in a moment of The Girls Can’t Play Nice that I had to roll my eyes at). Not only that, she is pretty damned furious about his betrayal and what it cost her, and as she tells Gwydion, if anyone is primed to exact vengeance and deserves to do just that, it’s her.

… Gwydion might not be on board, but dang, Achren. Go on with your vengeful self.

I want the story where she goes off and pursues her vendetta and to hell with everybody else and OH LOOK NOW SHE’S GONE OFF ON HER OWN, PRESUMABLY TO ANNUVIN CAN WE CATCH UP WITH ACHREN LATER MAYBE PLEASE SAY YES.

I just have a thing for wicked queens, OK?

AND ANOTHER THING.

 

“I remember the Old Writing,” Eilonwy said. “‘Draw Dyrnwyn only thou of royal blood…'”
“Closer to its true meaning is ‘noble worth‘,” said Gwydion. “The enchantment forbade the sword to all but those who would use it wisely and well.”

 

NOBLE WORTH, YOU SAY.

HMMM.

Say, don’t we have a young farmhand around here somewhere who recently went on a quest hoping to find some more noble origins and ended up finding a more noble purpose in life instead? And isn’t that precisely the sort of character upon whom a lot of epic fantasy plots tend to rely?

*Looks to camera*

I’m just saying. Taran wants to be a hero. Now he understands much better what that means, and now there’s a truly noble quest to undertake. Just. Saying.

Although … As we’ve learned in previous books (and also in this one, FYI I will never forgive Alexander for doing that to Rhun HE WAS PRECIOUS DAMN IT), no one is safe from a tragic death. Even a tragic but noble death. And now I’m scared for everybody.

Well, almost. I totally believe that Achren is out there kicking ass and you will not convince me otherwise. … Yet.

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