The fourth book in Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles, this one takes a somewhat more pensive direction. Taran leaves his home at Caer Dallben once again, but this time for his own, personal reasons. He’s become desperate to discover the truth of his parentage, largely in hopes that his birth may be more “noble” than his status.
Living up to his new sobriquet, Taran wanders all over Prydain, meeting up with old friends, running into new troubles. His time in the East, among the Free Commots sees Taran evolve as a character. This whole book is really about finding oneself and maturing. It puts into stronger words some of the lessons Taran has learned in previous books, about heroics, responsibility, morality, and true nobility. There is a weird narrative bit in the middle of the book (the old shepherd’s admission) where it takes a very sudden turn that feels a bit out of nowhere, but otherwise the book is quite good, if less directed and more episodic.
As I’m finally reading through the later books in this series, I’m struck by how good the books would be for younger folks. They’re fun stories with colorful characters, but they also have good lessons about life, presented clearly yet without seeming too preachy.
On to the final novel (though not the last book).