The second book in The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander, The Black Cauldron is somewhat more complex and more interesting than The Book of Three. Having already been introduced to many of the characters, we don’t need to go through that again and can instead jump right into the action. Taran and friends are tasked with finding and destroying the Black Cauldron aka the Crochan, the magic item used to create near invincible Cauldron Born, undead warriors.
There are some new characters and some returning characters get a bit more development and time to shine. Taran gets to grow somewhat as a character, which is nice. He starts to learn to control his emotions and be less of a hothead, making him a more enjoyable character to read about. The politics and history of the greater world are explored a bit, and some of the deeper mythology bubbles up.
The addition of deeply flawed people into the circle of friends and allies helps to make the story more complicated and the issues more relatable. Things get more grim, too, with some heavy costs involved in solving the riddles and winning the day. I would still put this on par with The Hobbit, as opposed to The Lord of the Rings. It’s a more gentle, dreamy Fantasy, like something seen through a gauze filter. The finale of the book is also much more satisfying, with Taran being awake through the whole thing and characters taking intentional action.
I’d read The Black Cauldron before, but so long ago that I remembered essentially nothing about it. From this point on, the stories of Prydain will all be new to me. So, on to the next one.
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