I have only the vaguest memories of reading The Book of Three as a young boy. I remember thinking the names were strange but the adventure was fun. I also remember intending to read the entire The Chronicles of Prydain but getting distracted with something else and never continuing on. So, with both a sense of nostalgia and a desire to discover this classic series, I picked up and jumped into the series.
The edition I read included an introduction which very interestingly informed me that a lot of this story is based on Welsh mythology…which peaked my interest and made me read it in a new light.
One thing that became quickly apparent as I read was that this book is certainly written to be accessible to a younger audience. The language and interactions are simple and easy to follow as opposed to some of the intensely detailed and convoluted plots and threads often found in weightier fantasy novels.
Taran is a fun, headstrong young character who somehow makes it through this adventure seemingly due more to his good luck than due to any overarching skill. The other characters he meets along the way are creative and a lot of fun to get to know. I really loved the distinctive and quirky nature of each of the characters that joins Taran on his quest.
Generally speaking, I felt like the simple language and plot helped to strengthen the story by distancing itself from the heavy baggage that is frequently found in the fantasy genre. However, there were a number of elements that I wanted to see developed a little more fully.
Most notably in my mind is the titular "Book of Three." As I finished reading the book, my son asked me "What is the Book of Three." As I explained it's relevance in the story, he asked my why it was the title of the book if it had as little to do with the plot as it does. I wondered that myself as I read and kept expecting the book to make a reappearance further into the story. The title of the novel made me expect the Book of Three to have pivotal impact. Instead, it sat on the periphery more as an educational opportunity for Taran. Other elements also felt a little weakly formed and left me wanting more. I hope and suspect that some of these smaller threads may make larger appearances later in the series.
After reading this novel, I feel bad that I gave up on it as a young child. It is a lot of fun and is full of nice adventure with a relatable central character (especially relatable to kids who "know everything" but feel like they never have a chance to prove it *grin*). If you've never ventured into Prydain, I'd say it's a worthwhile trip. Come into it acknowledging that it's a children's series (and thus not as heavy as Tolkien or other fantasy staples) and you'll find a lighthearted adventure with more depth than you might expect.
4 out of 5 stars
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