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The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander

The Book of Three (1964)

by Lloyd Alexander

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Chronicles of Prydain (1)

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5,266119839 (4.02)1 / 224

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Showing 1-5 of 119 (next | show all)
This book was a really delightful fantasy romp; it had just enough fantasy language (or, y'know, Welsh,) to make it seem unfamiliar without being wholly alienating (though it was a little rough to get into at the beginning, but that's something I experience a lot so ymmv.) I found the characters to be fun, especially Eilonwy and Fflewddur Fflam, and Taran's growth was good to watch. It made me want to read the other books in the series!

(People have said this is just watered down LOTR for kids and yeah to a large extent that might be true but also it's more fun and significantly shorter than LOTR so there.) ( )
  aijmiller | Aug 30, 2017 |
I made my first attempt at reading this book sometime during my primary school years, got about a chapter and a half through, gave up in disgust. Rediscovering it in my high school years, and remembering other books that I had initially not been able to finish, but had liked in the end, I decided to give it another go. Bah. Same problem. Given that it had won a Newberry Medal, and that a number of people had recommended it, I gave it another try.

Grrr. One of the least sympathetic main characters I've come across in a childrens/YA novel. The kid is inconsistent, selfish, and poorly characterised. It is impossible to tell what age he is, and his reactions to events are so chaotic that the only justification for what he does would appear to be the movement of the plot in the correct direction.

This problem with characterisation is not quite so bad with the others, but they are also less detailed, so it is harder to tell. The 'beast' Gurgi is all about food, with a side order of loyalty. The bard is all about learning that others will respect you for who you are, if only you stop and let them know. The female character, who may or may not be a princess, depending on which section of the story you are reading at the time seems to oscillate between being the sulky helpless character who doesn't want the help that she obviously needs, and a perfectly capable person whos abilities are being ignored. Even allowing for the age group that the book is presumably aimed at, this characterisation was unacceptable.

I'm not so sure about the plot, either. It may be that this book was a leader in its genre, and that there have been many derivative knock-offs which have influenced my expectations, but none of the surprises were particularly surprising, and the sequence of the plot seemed very regular - each chapter about the same length, the same build up. Or maybe it just felt like that because after the first 1/3 of the book I was just finishing it through sheer bloody mindedness - I'd made the effort, and damned if I were ever going to do it again.

In general, when I read something written for children that I have this negative a reaction to, I put it down to being mainly due to me not being the target demographic - like the Lemony Snickett's 'Unfortunate Events' series, where I read one, and have sworn never to read another, because of the sheer awfulness of the writing and the plot. Here though, I have the evidence of my younger self that tells me that this is not the case - the approximately 11 year old me didn't manage to finish it, and had the sense to declare this and give up.

And to suggest that this problem may be common to the author, rather than specific to the book, I also remember having a copy of 'The Black Cauldron', which I never read, and at that age I didn't care particularly much about reading series in sequence. 2/10 ( )
  fred_mouse | Aug 12, 2017 |
Hands down one of my most favorite series of all time. I read the books in fifth grade and it ruined medieval fantasy for me forever -- because nothing ever seemed to be as good. ( )
  majesdane | Aug 8, 2017 |
I recently read this book with my 8-year old daughter, and she loved it. Her favorite character is Gurgi, closely followed by Princess Eilonwy. I love Fflewddur Fflam. Taran, while not at all alone in this genre, comes across as repugnantly boyish, so I guess he's realistically written, however annoying. Dallben, while spoken of with respect by all the other characters, seems rather flat, as, frankly, do most of the characters. After benefitting from decades of nuanced, well-developed, multi-dimensional characters, it felt a bit boring to have an evil character whose main motivation seemed to be "being evil", a lonely wizard in his tower who mostly sits around being wise, a noble prince/knight who crusades around being noble, a magical pig who never seems to do much that is particularly magical, and so on. If it wasn't for the comic relief in the lovable band of misfits (Taran excluded) who bumble around in forests and dungeons on their quest this book would have been tough to get through. To be fair, though, I loved this book when I was in elementary school (probably around 9), and my daughter loves it now, so it could be that while it no longer entertains me the way it once did, it still holds its magic for those just beginning on this journey. ( )
  HeatherTristan | Jul 26, 2017 |
“Every living thing deserves respect, be it humble or proud, ugly or beautiful.” I just reread the Chronicles of Prydain, an amazing fantasy series by Lloyd Alexander. I am certain that others, as young people, struggled to pronounce Fflewddur Fflam, the spikey-haired bard whose enchanted harp breaks if he “exaggerates” facts, or the name of the beautiful princess Eilonwy of the red-gold hair, who often speaks using similes. Please consider reading the Chronicles if you have not done so. ( )
  Triptweeze | Jan 29, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 119 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lloyd Alexanderprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hale, ShannonIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Langton, JamesNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lee, Jody A.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maitz, DonCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ness, EvalineCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pilhjerta, Ritva-LiisaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wyatt, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For the children who listened, the grown-ups who were patient, and especially for Ann Durell.
First words
This chronicle of the Land of Prydain is not a retelling or retranslation of Welsh mythology. Prydain is not Wales—not entirely, at least. The inspiration for it comes from that magnificent land and its legends; but, essentially, Prydain is a country existing only in the imagination.

[From Lloyd Alexander's "Author's Note" to The Book of Three (1964)]
Taran wanted to make a sword; but Coll, charged with the practical side of his education, decided on horseshoes. And so it had been horseshoes all morning long. Taran's arms ached, soot blackened his face. At last he dropped the hammer and turned to Coll, who was watching him critically.

[From "The Assistant Pig-Keeper", chapter 1 of Lloyd Alexander's The Book of Three (1964)]
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Book description
Blending rich elements of Welsh legend and universal mythology, Lloyd Alexander creates the imaginary kingdom of Prydain to tell a tale of enchantment, both good and evil, and of the Assistant Pig-Keeper who wants to become a hero.

In an enthralling chronicle, Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper to a famour oracular sow, sets out on a hazardous mission to save Prydain from the forces of evil. He meets adventures in which humor and valor are blended in a way that will keep readers of all ages completely absorbed — for this is fantasy that is rooted in reality and truth.

Mr. Alexander says in his introductory note: "Most of us are called on to perform tasks far beyond what we can do. Our capabilities seldom match our aspirations, and we are often woefully unprepared. To this extent, we are all Assistant Pig-Keepers at heart."

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0805080481, Paperback)

The tale of Taran, assistant pig keeper, has been entertaining young readers for generations. Set in the mythical land of Prydain (which bears a more than passing resemblance to Wales), Lloyd Alexander's book draws together the elements of the hero's journey from unformed boy to courageous young man. Taran grumbles with frustration at home in the hamlet Caer Dallben; he yearns to go into battle like his hero, Prince Gwydion. Before the story is over, he has met his hero and fought the evil leader who threatens the peace of Prydain: the Horned King.

What brings the tale of Taran to life is Alexander's skillful use of humor, and the way he personalizes the mythology he has so clearly studied. Taran isn't a stick figure; in fact, the author makes a point of mocking him just at the moments when he's acting the most highhanded and heroic. When he and the young girl Eilonwy flee the castle of the wicked queen Achren, Taran emotes, "'Spiral Castle has brought me only grief; I have no wish to see it again.' 'What has it brought the rest of us?' Eilonway asked. 'You make it sound as though we were just sitting around having a splendid time while you moan and take on.'" By the end, Alexander has spun a rousing hero's tale and created a compelling coming-of-age story. Readers will sigh with relief when they realize The Book of Three is only the first of the chronicles of Prydain. --Claire Dederer

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:33 -0400)

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Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper to a famous oracular sow, sets out on a hazardous mission to save Prydain from the forces of evil.

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