Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander

   Occasionally, I read fantasy story lines just to relax, especially if they are Arthurian or uses motifs or the surrounding genre evoked by the Irish and Welsh myths. Alexander's books fit perfectly into this mold. The plot consists of five books: The Book of Three, The Black Cauldron, The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer, and The High King. You may recognize the second book since Disney made a movie from the storyline. The series is a set of hero stories and can be recommended for the younger market. I have completed the first two books of the series and our young fictional hero, Taran the Assistant Pigkeeper of Caer Dallben, hasn't even properly kissed his future love, Princess Eilonwy. Violence is present but muted, balanced on essential story requirements of good defeating evil.
   The land of Prydain in the stories is loosely based on Wales as are most of the characters, being plucked from the Mabinogion. However, they are not the same. Prydain is a fantasy land and the characters from the Mabinogion may be visually recognizable by name and description but not spiritually. Annwn has been turned into an evil realm allowing the author to stick to a more standard good versus evil plot line. The principal characters are all drawn from the author's imagination (so that no baggage has to be carried along that might change his story).
   The first book shows the typical journey of a hero as found in Tolkien. Matter of fact, Gurgi reminded me much of Tolkien's Gollem. There are other parallels that can be drawn between the two plots. And the ending was straight from the yellow brick road. The second book shows more confidence on Alexander's part to craft a story without directly drawing his plot from another more famous story but remember that the Black Cauldron is based on Bran's famous Otherworld cauldron but not the story of its destruction. These books are for simple relaxation and for the youth audience. If you have a teenager into reading, give them the books and I am sure they will be enjoyed. If you want a little light reading, open one up yourself.