The High King
by Lloyd Alexander
Really the first four novels of The Prydain Chronicles
have been really a build up to the fifth. It has more depth, more pathos, more humor, more heroism, more bitter betrayal, more heart-pounding danger, more prophetic portent, more romance, more of the clash of good vs. evil, more heartbreaking tragedy, and more heartwarming camaraderie than all the other books put together, plus it explains all the things the other books have left you wondering about and ties up all the threads.
You have no heart if the last half of this book doesn't account for at least half a box of Kleenex. It is very moving. And it is very much like a total recasting of the Lord of the Rings tale, complete with a seemingly insignificant figure (Taran, instead of Frodo) whose destiny is to battle the very heart of evil face-to-face, and (at the end) a golden ship departing for the Summer Country with all the Sons of Don on board. Taran really comes into his potential in this story, while many other beloved characters stand on the brink of life and death (and be warned, too many of them fall).
This time, the world of Prydain has reached its ultimate crisis. Arawn's armies are on the move. Either he will be defeated for good and all, or he will conquer all of Prydain and darkness will cover the land forever. With Cauldron-Born, Huntsmen, and vicious giant birds called Gwythaints on his side, and the land of the living divided by rivalries and quarrels, the outlook for all that is good and beautiful has never been worse. There can be no hope unless people from all corners of Prydain come together, and there can be no victory without heart-rending sacrifices and bitter sorrows. Hen Wen's final prophecy makes their hope seem all but impossible to attain. And of all people for events to hinge upon, it would be Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper, and his motley companions.
The book deserves every carat of the 1969 Newbery Medal. It is thrilling, frightening, and deeply moving, full of wisdom and full of love for each character and for a richly detailed fantasy world. Any boy who reads this book will be a better man for it. The ending is perfect. I recommend The Prydain Chronicles with all my heart.
Recommended Age: 10+
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