Fantasy Flashback: The Book of Three

Monday, February 14, 2011

Welcome to Fantasy Flashback Week!
The Book of Three
Lloyd Alexander, 1964

Fantasy Flashback is a week long event in which I'm re-reading books that were important to me as a young person. Most of these are classics with publication dates in the 60's and 70's, so I feel little need to warn for spoilers, FYI.

You know how some people have a story about the first time they read a book that had a huge impression on them, that they remember where they were or how it felt or something?

I don't have a story like that.

I've been reading fantasy novels for literally as long as I can remember. Sure, I remember the first time I read Lord of the Rings, and certain other books I recall getting as presents or seeking out through libraries, but by that point I was already a confirmed life-long genre fan.

I think, though, that The Book of Three was one of my early finds.

I was a Lloyd Alexander fan for a good long time, and at one point I had read, and owned, everything he had written. As I got older and learned more about history and myth, I began to dislike the way he sometimes twisted these for his own purposes. As I recall, my breaking point was The Arkadians, which was published in 1995. I actually hated that book when I read it, because I'm very picky about my Greek myth. Even though I'm passably familiar with actual Welsh myth now, though, The Prydain Chronicles don't bother me on that level, so long as I consider them to be their own independent world.

All of that is a round-about way to say that I very much enjoyed re-reading this book. I forgot how much simple fun it is.

Taran is adorably eager, though somewhat inane through the beginning. It's interesting that now reading it what I sympathize with isn't Taran's frustration, but Gwydion's near-saintly patience with the boy.

I do admit to really enjoying Eilonwy's prattle. She just makes me smile.
Eilonwy held the glowing sphere close to the stone floor. “Go first,” she said. “Then I'll come down after, so I can put the stone back in place. Then, when Achren sends to have you killed, there won't be any trace at all. She'll think you disappeared into thin air – and that will make it all the more vexing. I know it isn't nice to vex people on purpose – it's like handing them a toad – but this is much too good to miss and I may never have another chance at it.”

Alexander pushes it occasionally with the dialogue, both Eilonwy's and Taran's, but usually keeps the too-ironic or too-poetic tones in check by balancing them against each other. However, I wouldn't recommend reading this for the first time as an adult. The plot wanders a bit from meeting to meeting, and adding characters takes up most of the book.

I would still recommend it as a solid fantasy adventure for youngsters. The books get more complicated and better written later in the series, much like another coming-of-age fantasy I could name. Although thankfully, these books are much shorter.


All the ratings this week come with a caveat: every book discussed this week was a five star book to 11 year-old me. So please keep that in mind, this is not a universal judgement, but a personal one.  

29 year-old me gives The Book of Three: 3 Stars - A Good Book

Tomorrow: The Farthest-Away Mountain

1 comment:

Jon said...

Given that this book is really all about the setup for the rest of the series, it's still quite charming, and the series is up there on my top ten all time list. I think my favorite characters are Gurgi and Ordu, Orwen and Orgoch.

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