Summary: Classic children’s fantasy. I think probably the best children’s epic fantasy series.
Reading the excellent Gateway Chronicles this year has made me a little nostalgic for the fantasy that I read in my youth, mostly Prydain Chronicles and L’Engle’s Time Quintet. (There is much fantasy that I read in my youth that I have no desire to revisit.)
Revisiting Lloyd Alexander I am always struck by how short these books are. When I was reading them as a teen/pre-teen, they did not feel nearly as short.
Taran is a young sheltered early teen. He lives with two men that are the only family he can remember. Dallben, a very old wizard who teaches him and a blacksmith/farmer, Coll, who cares for the the farm he lives on and teaches Taran all of the practical things of life. Because he knows nothing else, he assumes the rest of the world is glorious. He wants to have adventures and glory.
Early in the book he is expressing frustration with his limited life and he is given the title Assistant Pig Keeper and made responsible for caring for Hen Wen, an ‘oracular’ pig with the ability the prophesy about the future. When Hen Wen gets scared and runs off, Taran follows after her and that starts Taran’s first quest.
He eventually meets up with Prince, Gwydion, Princess Eilonwy, Fflewddur Fflam, Gurgi and Doli, the main companions that will be with him in the rest of the series. No spoilers, but seriously, I do not think there is a better children’s epic fantasy series. Good readers could start reading this maybe as early as 8 or 9 independently. But this is a great series to read together as a family.