Drew Graham's Reviews > The High King

The High King by Lloyd Alexander
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's review
Mar 17, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: me, re-read
Read from April 05 to 07, 2011

Reread > 5 April 2016 - 14 April 2016

Math raised his head. "Is there worse evil?" he said in a low voice, his eyes never leaving Pryderi's. "Is there worse evil than that which goes in the mask of good?" (119)

"... Was it your concern to serve Prydain? You chose an evil means to do it. Good cannot come from evil. You leagued yourself with Arawn for what you deemed a noble cause. Now you are a prisoner of the very evil you hoped to overcome, prisoner and victim. For in The Book of Three you are already marked for death" (Dallben, 1**).

See, stuff like that is what I love about these books. This reread took much longer than I would have liked it to, and longer than the last one, but I still enjoyed it. It's interesting to note the difference in style and tone from the first, but how it's still pretty consistent. It's nice that a series can grow up without changing the reading level/content intensity. It has the traveling and philosophy of the fourth, the romance and relationships of the third, the quest feeling of the second, and the wonder and humor of the first. I like how a lot of familiar characters reappear and loose ends are tied up (I could do without Glew completely... I guess he served his purpose, but just leave him behind, companions). I remember feeling like time like there could have been more of a showdown or presence about Arawn himself, but the point is really the other characters' journey (and really, how many times does Sauron actually appear?).

I so look forward to reading this to my little ones one day.


Thus concludes The Chronicles of Prydain. This is the longest book in the series, and I think it took me the shortest time to read. It's no wonder why The High King is a Newbery winner, the characters by now feel like old friends and the reader is truly invested in the story. This book was a perfect and fitting ending to the series.

Taran and Co. are all grown up and, when the legendary sword Dyrnwyn is stolen, have to at last face the Death-Lord Arawn in an epic ultimate battle of good vs. evil, and of course face some individual trials along the way. There are personal discoveries to be made, alliances to be forged (and broken), betrayals to be reconciled, and redemption to be exacted. If the stakes were ever raised in the previous books, they're at their highest now, when this ultimate evil threatens all of Prydain. It was awesome to see minor elements that were introduced in the first two books fully fleshed out and come full-circle. This book is a veritable reunion, bringing back a multitude of characters, good and bad, to play out their roles in the final confrontation. Gwydion, Eilonwy, Gurgi, Fflewddur and Doli are at their very best, and the imperfect Everyman Taran still occasionally struggles to be the best he can possibly be, but he is a man and a hero, and still an Assistant Pig-Keeper (with confidence and well-directed pride in his station). There's a lot of excitement and action, and although the book takes place over several weeks, the pacing is great, and the story never drags--just when you think there might be an overlong lull in the action, or a lot of boring traveling or descriptions, something gripping happens. I thought that a book largely setting up and describing a series of battles in a war might not appeal as much to me, but I was hooked with each turn of the page. Setting this final chapter of war in the dead of winter also adds an appropriate element of starkness to the overall feel, an additional threat over which the Companions have no control. It's grim, it's bleak, and it's a little bit hopeless at times, but the spark of good in the characters shines through just enough to persuade the reader (and the cast) to press forward with confidence. (Everyone knows what inevitably comes after winter, right?) Naturally, there are casualties on both sides, but they have meaning, and they are fittingly tragic or triumphant. The themes from previous books about honor, sacrifice and redemption are still present, and masterfully woven throughout, subtle and honest, and the added element of the Hen Wen's ultimate and enigmatic prophecy makes for an exciting side mystery. As it's the grand finale, I was a little worried certain things wouldn't play out how I wanted them to in the end, but the loose ends were all tied up satisfactorily.

As a series overall, this is very well-written and engaging from start to finish. The characters are so nicely-developed, even though some of them have very little physical description. Less really is more sometimes. I noticed there's never any exact reference to Taran's age (though his manner and attitude give you a pretty clear idea of how he's maturing), and I realized only after I was finished that his appearance is never even described. It is a mark of the writer's skill that I still have a very clear picture in my mind of what this hero looks like, or at least how he feels, which is more important anyway. The action and adventure are always well-written and thrilling, scary but not graphic; the story is strong and character-driven; and the scope expands naturally and believably as the series progresses. Sometimes I felt like each chronicle was a little short, and could have used just a little more interaction between and background for certain characters, but the journey was such a delight regardless.

After I finished, I didn't want to start reading something else immediately, I just wanted to let this series sit in my mind for a little while. I can't wait to read the supplemental 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.

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Reading Progress

04/05/2011 page 30
04/06/2016 marked as: read
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