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October 31st, 2010, 10:52
Finished it late last evening.

I have very much mixed feelings about it.

- First : the setting : It is so … so … different than anything I read of. Since Lloyd Alexander drew from Welsh mythologies (and Tolkien, too), I can see a glimpse, a few sighs from afar which are in both works (Lord Of The Rings and The Book Of Three), but apart from that - everything is different.

There are especially two events which are SO MUCH out of place that nobody would do them in any RPG nowadays. Gamers ould simply call them immersion-breakers, although they are actually part of this world. (Spiral Castle and The Fair Folk)

- The language : I think this book was meant to be for younger readers. Hence its language is a bit … plain simple, EXCEPT within the speeches. The more intelligent protagonists speak in a … what's the word ? - dict.leo.org suggests the word "plangent" - … a language that reflects as if its speakers lived several hundreds of years ago … Well, not exactly, because they don't use too old words but their speeches are longish and … boing. Too many words, like people who had grown up in a different culture which uses a different kind of wording ( I can only TRY to compare it so something else … It would be perhaps as if an Amish would speak american English - just take the image this creates in your mind, not the exact, real outcome of it).

And of course there are lean-words from Welsh mythology.

- The protagnists : First, forget everything if you have seen the Disney movie "The Black Cauldron". This is a bit different. Not entirely, but noticeable. Like the whole movie is like some kind of summary (as it seem to me) of the books 1-2 … or so. Since I have read only book 1, I can't say.

The main protagonist is an anti-hero. He is stupid and he is rough. His profession of an "Assistant Pig Keeper" speaks very well of how he is. He is not brutal, though. Only stupid and rough.

On stark contrast against him are almost all other protagonists - save the Bard and Gurgi, maybe.

The bard (who looks quite different than in the movie) and Gurgi (I could include him as he looked like in the movie, although in the descriptions he has longer arms) are the only "middle" protagonists … Well, because their actions speak of more kind of sanity.

But the other protagonists - especially Eilonwyn - act so that they form a really stark contrast to Taran. They are intelligent, clever, and of higher classes in society, which means they are not stupid and not rough at all either.

All in all, this book leaves me unsatisfied. I really don't want to read more about an Assistant Pig-Keeper who is so stupid it hurts - and manages to grow some kind of hatred inside of me.

I just don't want to read about an anti-hero who is oh so easily surpassed by everyone else, in terms of wits etc. . Maybe I'm just biased, but this is how I was impressed.

On the other side, I'm intrigued. I really want to learn more about this setting, this world, which is - although seemingly written for youngsters - so much different than any fantasy world I know of.

Of course, some parts of it look from today's view highly generic, but I think this is only because we are already know so many different fantasy settings we can choose from. We are like kind of … overflowed, flooded by fantasy settings of today.

But then, when the book was written (within the 60s of the last century), this was something almost entirely new. The Hobbit was already known, and The Lord Of The Rings was still in the making. And both partly drew from the same resources : Welsh mythology.

Plus, if Taran gets a chance to grow, it might become better. But I don't know. My only hope is that the Newbery awards came in justified. I really hope it gets muchbetter than this, because Taran's stupid and rough behaviour just turns me off - for an protagonist. Antagonists are supposed to behave like that.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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