Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Castle of Llyr (The Chronicles of Prydain, #3) by Lloyd Alexander

Eilonwy wants to be an sword-wielding adventurer but is told she must go learn to be a princess. She is sent to Isle of Mona where she meets Prince Rhun, a feckless boy that can't manage his own two feet. He is funny and reminded me of the doofy princes in "The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom" by Christopher Healy. Taran is showing some signs of jealousy as Prince Rhun's parents will be overseeing Eilonwy's training in court behavior. She must learn to control her magical powers that she inherited from her parents who are now dead. Taran struggles with not being born of noble birth and therefore unworthy of Eilonwy's affections. When Eilonwy is kidnapped by an evil queen, Taran gathers his companions and seeks to rescue her.

Eilonwy has a magical bauble that glows with light. She loses it when she is abducted and Taran's group finds it. They try to figure out how to make the light illuminate inside, but are unsuccessful at first. The bauble reinforces the hero theme found in the previous two books. Taran is developing his own definition of what constitutes an honorable hero. The bauble can only be used if one thinks about others and does not have selfish thoughts.  Taran is loyal to his companions and will not run away in fear. He is willing to sacrifice his life for others in dangerous situations. Eilonwy learns the meaning of sacrifice and rejects using her magical powers to be someone important. She is content to be herself. Like Taran, her journey toward self-discovery is similar and she learns to grow up and rely on her own competence, not magic.

Alexander paints a complex villain in Achren. Eilonwy has always viewed her as a human and has not feared her like others. She sees her aunt's weakness for power and reliance on magic to gain it. An engaging climax shows the strength of Eilonwy's character that overrides the weaknesses found in the adults of Magg and Achren. While Achren is lured by power that comes from magic, Eilonwy just sees magic as a tool and not what defines her as a human being. Because of that, she is willing to give it up easily for the good of others. Her actions are selfless and heroic.

I was afraid that this story would be more stereotypical with the princess being rescued by a male, but it has a nice twist at the end and is anything but that. Eilonwy is a strong person and most of the time she is not in the dialogue of this story. I really missed her and found myself not as vested in the storyline. Taran has his adventures and meets a goofy giant but I missed the tension and dynamic that comes from Taran and Eilonwy arguing as she tries to get him to respect her for who she is. Both characters are searching for their own identity and while it is Taran's story, I wanted to hear more from Eilonwy.

3 Smileys

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