When I read The Book of Three, I found myself very irritated by Taran despite fairly pleasant memories of the book as a wee lad. And that probably would have been it for me rereading this series but then I found myself in a slump looing for short easy books to read. So back I went, hoping that Taran was a little more grown up in this installment.
The answer, somewhat unsurprisingly, was not so much.
The main thing that changed was Taran wasn’t bickering for half of the book with Eilonwy, but instead a person named Ellidyr, Prince of Pen-Llarcau. Ellidyr is an absolutely intolerable pillock, being as arrogant a snob as found in fantasy, so it makes sense Taran would retaliate but me oh my it’s tedious. I would feel different if they were dropping great lines on each other, but they’re not. They sneer and strut and it’s like watching two drunks argue over who was first man into the Iranian embassy in 1980. Everytime I mutter dark things about whingy teenagers when talking about this series a friend goes “like real life” and
a) yes, nobody likes teenagers when they’re being whingy
b) a lot of teenagers are capable of being genuinely hilarious when in full emotional warfare mode
Lloyd Alexander isn’t shooting for that (or maybe humour’s changed a lot). He’s just looking for people going through hard times and going out stronger while undertaking a fantasy quest. Which is something I’m down for, but not like this. It’s like pouring soy sauce on ice cream.
The fact that Adaon, alleged leader of their group, think Taran is great just utterly baffles me.
While I’m kvetching, the ending is very predictable too, which might be unconscious memory as I might have read this book before. I think it’s just an obvious plot too.
Was there anything much I liked about it? Fflewddur Fflam was great value as ever, as was the whole general Welsh mythic vibes. Each individual scene worked (assuming Taran wasn’t being an insecure humourless scrote again); Alexander does write rather well.
But I don’t think it’s enough. Not for me. I’ve got the other books but if I dip into them for more than research purposes, I urge people to smack me in the face.