Thursday, July 30, 2015

The High King (1968)

The High King, published in 1968 by Lloyd Alexander, concludes the Chronicles of Pridain. This is the story of the final conflict with Arawn, and the ultimate fates of Taran, Eilonwy, and just about everyone else that we've met along the way.

As a kid, I would have eaten this book up, so I give it generous stars as its target demographic will love it.

Although Alexander does a marvelous job of gathering up and using every character available, and using them rather well, the book feels rather hurried in many places. To me, this book returned the series to Lord of the Rings light.  Often, I felt that events proceeded rather turnkey, with one mini ex machina after another. Turn after turn, I recognized the tropes that Tolkien branded upon the mind of every fantasy writer, or perhaps every editor of every fantasy writer. Make no mistake, you have no doubt that the hero will win, only a doubt about who may or may not live until the end.

As a writer, I appreciate Alexander's use of dangling plots and dangling items. He uses these to produce his many mini ex machinas. Just about every item left unaccountable comes back into play and comes into play logically, down to the last play. If you're a writer and you want to study how to leave bits hanging for later, he's worth studying.

Myself, I reached the end and I was glad to be done. As an adult, I had no deep appetite for this series. The characters never gripped me. The events never carried me away. I just sauntered through the work, always able to keep my distance. Whatever magic that this book contained did not work on me.