As you may or may not recall, I received as a birthday present the full set of The Chronicles of Prydain. I read them once, many years ago as a sophomore in high school, and I enjoyed them and meant to re-read them some day, but I never did. When I saw over Christmas break at the library that there was a nice new edition recently published, complete with beautiful new cover art, I made sure to mention it to The Wife. Just as she surprised me hiding them one at a time throughout the house on my birthday, I was surprised and delighted as I soon after started reading through each one. It's been so long, it was for the most part like reading them for the first time. I won't take the time to review each of them here (you can find my full reviews on Goodreads, if you're interested), but I felt like I should write something about them, since I enjoyed them ever so much. I feel like I have so much to say! Where do I even begin? I mean, I read all five of these books in barely three weeks.
(I'm looking at you, Ms. Meyer and Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles...), it was refreshing to read something basically new to me that was very well-written and full of delightful (or terrifying!) characters. I was surprised to discover that Lloyd Alexander is American, his writing has such an authentic European feel to it. He shows, rather than tells, and proves that less often is truly more. In fact, Taran's physical appearance is practically never described, yet I feel like I know him quite well. The heroes are noble, the villains are threatening, the action is thrilling and convincing, the romance is innocent, the humor is genuine, the themes are strong, and they're all in great balance. Each of the chronicles is fairly short (the longest isn't even 250 pages), so they're quick reads, but they're chock-full of great stuff, and don't read like children's books. This is a story about good vs. evil, and it feels like classic fantasy. Each tells a fairly stand-alone story, but the overarching plot is masterfully woven throughout each novel, and I loved how certain elements and characters resurfaced and came full-circle, even if they seemed at first minor or irrelevant. It's like a well-forged sword, or a fine tapestry, or a beautiful piece off the potter's wheel or something.
Relatedly, many will already know that the Disney animated version is a combination of the stories from the first two books (and a couple elements from the other three). It took a long long time to produce, and at the time was pretty revolutionary for the studio, but it wasn't very well-received. It's sort of considered by many to be the black sheep of the Disney canon, but, even though it takes some pretty serious liberties with the story and some of the characters, I think it's a pretty nice adaptation in many ways. It's pretty dark and grim, but that's more or less fitting, and I think it's largely underrated as a movie.
follow-up novel of short stories that precede the events of The Chronicles. I really shouldn't have waited so long to reread these books. I think I might have to return to them every year or two. I miss Taran and Eilonwy already.