1969: The High King (complete with oracular pigs)

VERDICT: Trash

Sally’s Rating: 2.5/5

Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain series wraps up in the fifth and final book, The High King. Filled to the max with every trope that a high fantasy series can possibly offer, the fight between good and evil comes down to a final battle that needs the courage and help of Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper.

A book based on Welsh mythology, The High King follows a group of heroes who must band together to save the day against the forces of evil. The adventure is kicked off by a prophecy made by an oracular pig, which is the only highlight of the journey. Beyond that, the story is just a bunch of battles and narrow escapes from being captured. The melancholy ending elevates the novel quite a bit, but it still wrapped everything up too neatly and perfectly for a book about war.

I listened to the first novel on audiobook, but I skipped over the middle books to read this one. Perhaps if I had, some of the characters would have felt more well-rounded and important to the plot. The tight-knit relationships between the heroes were lost on me as a result, and the sacrifices they made for each other lost their impact. The main characters were all fairly cookie cutter stereotypes. If forced to choose a favorite character, Princess Eilonwy would easily win because of her sass and high-spirited ways. She gives a much needed spark to a book that is overloaded with good-natured heroes who are always virtuous and noble.

This book encompasses everything that I hate about high fantasy – a simplistic good versus evil plot, bland characters, and lots of description of various battles. While children can read this novel as an introduction to this genre, as an adult reader it’s hard to not compare this to the countless other classic children’s fantasy novels out there like The Hobbit and The Chronicles of Narnia. And it does not fare well in comparison.

Recommended for hardcore Welsh mythology buffs and lovers of high fantasy.

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