Title: The Book of Three
Author: Lloyd Alexander
Date of Publication: 1964
Series: The Chronicles of Prydain
Awards:Regina Medal for Lifetime Achievement from the Catholic Library Association, ALA (American Library Association) Notable Book
Overall Rating: Excellent. The story follows a young boy learning important life lessons in epic, though often surprisingly funny, circumstances. The good characters are likeable, honest, and believable.
Age Recommendation: Due to the violent content of the book, I would recommend twelve and up as an appropriate age range. If your child is less susceptible to violence (and, to be honest, none of the violence in the book was graphic in nature) then a younger age would find it enjoyable as well. If your child can read J.K. Rowling or Philip Pullman (This is not a recommendation of either author!!!), then they will find Alexander tame by comparison, as well as being more enlightening.
Language: Fool, drat, stupid, idiot. Most of these words are only used once in the book.
Violence: A boy is attacked by a mounted soldier and injured. A boy is attacked by a creature who attempts to strangle him, but the creature is unsuccessful. A boy is almost drowned in a river. A man and a boy are attacked by evil birds and escape. A boy wrestles with a creature. A boy sees from a distance people burned alive in wicker cages by the evil villian, the "Horned King." A boy and a man are attacked by mounted warriors. A boy and a man are attacked by zombie-like "Cauldron-born" warriors. A boy and a man are captured and beaten to keep them from speaking to each other. A witch strikes a bound man and breaks his sword, threatening to do the same to him. A girl speaks of being beaten by a witch, whom the girl then bit. A boy wildly swings a sword at a man. A boy raises a sword at a girl. A girl threatens to break a man's harp over his head. A creature injures himself falling out of a tree. A group is chased by Cauldron-born warriors, who they attempt to fight off. Wolves jump on two men, but do not injure them. A girl punches a man, giving him a black eye. A group is attacked by a small band of warriors and the group kills three of them. A group is attacked by a large force of warriors. A boy and a girl are chased and attacked by the evil villian, the Horned King. A boy is injured when he tries to draw a magic sword. The villian is defeated and apparently melts.
Adult Content: A girl kisses a dwarf on the top of his head. A boy and a girl become friends and he tries to protect her.
Disturbing or scary elements: There is a discussion about Annuvin, the "land of death"; Arawn, who rules Annuvin; and the Horned King, Arawn's champion. A boy's hands are burned when he tries to touch a magic book. Animals are scared by something and run away. The Horned King is described as wearing a mask of a human skull with antler horns and bloodstains on his arms. A creature says he wants to eat a boy. The Cauldron-born are described as dead men brought to life through black magic, who no longer remember that they were men. Cauldron-born are later described as having faces with a death grin and eyes like stones. A boy and a girl hear wailing voices they think are ghosts. A castle magically explodes. Bodies are seen among the ruins of the castle. A group is followed by a pair of Cauldron-born. A group hears wolves howling close to them. Bird are described as being imprisoned and tortured into submission (no details are given). A group is sucked into a black lake and fear that they're drowning. A group is captured and bags are put over their heads to keep them from seeing. A group is captured by "fairies," a motley assortment of Fair Folk including dwarves, elves, etc. A group hides from horsemen carrying torches. A man speaks of how he was imprisoned and tortured (no details are given, other than he was tempted to despair) .
Morally problematical content: A boy impetuously tries to make a sword and ignores his master. A boy talks back to his master. A boy tries to look at a book forbidden to him. A pig is consulted as an oracle. A boy runs into the forest against the rules and is lost. A boy is rude to a man who rescues him. A man makes a magic net out of grass and uses it against an enemy to protect a boy. Evil warriors are spoken of as having been created through necromancy (Cauldron-born). A witch tries to get information from a boy by charming him. A girl has a "bauble" she can cause to light up. A boy and a girl take swords from dead warriors. A group takes weapons from other dead warriors. A man has a magic harp that almost "plays itself" but whose strings snap when the man tries to "embellish the truth." A girl tries to use magic against enemy warriors and fails. A man is able to speak with animals and keep his valley hidden from men. This man is also able to keep animals from killing each other in his valley and can cause sleep. A creature is spoken of as neither wise like an animal nor learned like a man. A magic lake sucks a group under but does not harm them. A dwarf king is able to use magic to keep a group from using their weapons. A dwarf is unable to make himself invisible (which is something dwarves are supposed to be able to do). A discussion is made about whether or not to kill a wounded bird who might be an enemy. A boy is injured when he tries to draw a magic sword. The Horned King is defeated by the use of his secret name, which causes him to be struck by lightning and melt. A man speaks of how suffering gave him the ability to understand animals and nature.
Artistic Content: This book has humor, good moral sense, and good character developement. Alexander draws heavily on Welsh mythology, but does not merely rewrite it. The book as believable characters and a plausible plotline (for a fantasy work). Once a child is old enough to read it, the book will never be outgrown.
Overall Message: A boy's journey leads to wisdom and the adventures he longed for lead him to appreciate his home. Though some of the lessons are hard, they make him a better person and teach him to take responsibility for his actions.
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