Ensiform's Reviews > The High King

The High King by Lloyd Alexander
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Apr 24, 12

bookshelves: fiction, newbery
Read in May, 2009, read count: two

The fifth book in the Chronicles of Prydain, this one finally won the Newbery. When Arawn the Death-Lord steals the magic sword Dyrnwyn, all the companions move to get it back before he can use it to rule all Pyrdain. Taran rallies the men of the Commots whom he won over during his travels in the previous book, becoming an unlikely war-leader under the banner of the White Pig. Braving harsh winter, the monstrous gwythaints, the Cauldron-Born undead, and the mystically bonded Huntsmen, the companions must make one hard decision after another.

Since this is in essence a tale of growing up, that’s what this book ultimately comes down to: hard choices, and the wisdom to ask for help when it’s needed. That’s not to say there isn’t great drama in the fight scenes, or clever humor in the dialogue, or deep pathos in the struggle (well-liked, heroic characters die; the bard Fflewddur makes a tremendous sacrifice). Indeed, I had either forgotten or never noticed just how sad the ending of this book is: in becoming king, Taran sacrifices nearly everything he’s ever loved in order to serve others. I enjoyed all these books as a child for their adventure and magic and I enjoyed them once more this time, perhaps with a much better appreciation for the maturity and wisdom that Taran cherishes above heroism after all. And that ability to entertain and inform adults as well as children is really the hallmark of the best children’s literature.

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