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Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander (2 stars)

Taran Wanderer - Lloyd Alexander

I made it through Book 4 of the Chronicles of Prydain. Only one more to go and I can officially discard the shame of having never read one of the most lauded series in children's literature. ;) This book is, as the title suggests, all about Taran ... and the wandering he does. The pacing and plotting felt pretty slow throughout, but I'm hoping this dedicated search for self-worth means the fifth book will have a little more adventure and a little less Assistant Pig-Keeper identity crisis.

 

What I liked:

Oddly enough, the "crafty" sections. I loved the descriptions of smithing in the forge, weaving on the loom and throwing clay on the wheel. There's a certain magic to it, watching something take shape and form. It's a bit of a spoiler (warning), but I also liked the lack of success in Taran's quest. If he had suddenly found an easy answer and rooted his identity in it, all the growth he experienced in the series would have gone down the drain.

 

What I didn't like:

It got very, very slow, kind of like that Dr. Seuss book "Are You My Mother?" -- very unhurried and content to ramble across the countryside, though not necessarily happy or accomplished at any point until the end. Also, there's a coincidence that was just a little too much to take, one all the heroes would have been dead without. Ah well, I suppose the main cast has to stick around for the last book.

 

Definitely not the most adventurous, fast-paced book in the series, but still worth the read, especially, I think, for kids. It's a little heavy handed in its delivery, but the message of basing your self-worth on your actions instead of your lineage or wealth is always relevant; and the idea that you may never be the best, or even good, at something you love to do, while crushing, is also an interesting concept to present to kids.