Jun 16, 15
Read from March 22 to 27, 2011
This second book in The Chronicles of Prydain is an excellent continuation of the series. The stakes are higher as the good guys plan to confront the evil Death-Lord Arawn himself and steal the Black Cauldron before he can use it for his wicked purposes, and the writing reflects the increased threat and danger, but is still somehow really fun to read. I love how the core characters are already progressing. Taran, Eilonwy, Fflewddur and Gurgi are being treated with more depth and history, and their relationships are familiar but still interesting. It's a nice feeling when The Companions are reunited. Taran has already come a long way from his lowly beginnings as starry-eyed Assistant Pig-Keeper, and is becoming a real hero. He still obviously has a lot to learn and a lot of growing up to do, but he's on the right track, and his transformation feels real. There are a lot of fairly prominent themes that emerge in The Black Cauldron regarding pride, honor, betrayal and redemption. Great new characters such as Adaon, Ellidyr, Gwystyl, Kaw, Morgant and the Witches of Morva are colorful additions to the world of Prydain, and it's nice how the setting expands along with the story. It seems like there are some characters and plot points I would have liked to see further explored, but I can't complain when I'm so enjoying the journey.
I should mention that a combination of this and the prior chronicle are the inspiration for the 1985 animated Disney version, which I have seen many times, and watched again last night. They took some real liberties with the story and characters, eliminating certain people and plot elements entirely, but I think overall it's a pretty faithful adaptation, and although pretty dark, a fairly underrated movie. It also helps me to picture Gurgi in a more attractive way, as it were.
I'm so glad that my expectations are being met, even exceeded as I re-read these books! It's been so long, it's basically like reading them for the first time, and I find myself gasping at the twists and turns of plot, frantically turning pages to find out what happens next.