The Castle of Llyr by Lloyd Alexander: Kings and queens; witches and warriors
Third book in the Chronicles of Prydain
Overall rating: 9/10
Quality of writing: 9/10
Concerning content (language, violence, etc.): minimal
Age level: 8 and up
Taran the Assistant Pig-Keeper returns in the third book of The Chronicles of Prydain as he and his friends seek to defeat the evil enchantress Achren, and rescue the princess Eilonwy. Alexander also introduces several new characters in this book: King Rhuddlum of Mona, his wife, the motherly Queen Teleria, and their son, the bumbling Prince Rhun. With dialogue and characters that range from amusing and endearing to serious and profound, this Welsh folklore-based tale is reminiscent in some ways of a complex fairy-tale, and on the whole is definitely worth a read.
Although the conflict doesn’t really take shape until the third of the book’s twenty chapters, once the action gets moving, it’s quite engaging. Additionally, Alexander’s use of creative plot devices (such as the well-meaning but hapless Prince Rhun getting lost) allows the plot to develop in a believable way that doesn’t seem “forced.” Finally, the resolution at the end (which I won’t spoil) is satisfying, driving home the lesson that victory cannot always be achieved by force of arms. Overall, the plot of The Castle of Llyr is quite well-written and deserves a 9 out of 10.
This book includes many familiar characters from the previous books in the series, including Taran, Eilonwy, Gwydion, Gurgi, Fflewddur Fflam, and several others. However, Alexander keeps the storyline interesting by introducing several new characters, as mentioned before: Prince Rhun, Queen Teleria, King Rhuddlum, and Glew, among others. As with his other characters, Alexander does an excellent job of making them convincing and believable, with the perfect balance of humor and seriousness; Prince Rhun, for example, is foolhardy and juvenile, but becomes surprisingly mature by the end of the book. The only potential flaws of the characters in this book are the lack of focus on and development of Eilonwy (who plays an important role in the plot), and the “recycling” of Achren as a villain, which could potentially be seen as “lazy writing;” however, this is really a minor concern and actually acts as a device to tie the series together. On the whole, The Castle of Llyr’s characters are quite well-developed, and should not disappoint fans of Alexander’s other books. (8.5/10)
Throughout The Castle of Llyr, Alexander presents an excellent and engaging story in relatively straightforward language and clear characterization. Alexander’s style is simple, although not oversimplified, and incorporates well-chosen descriptive language. Furthermore, the plot in this book is easy to follow and based on a well-defined goal (find the Princess Eilonwy); this, combined with the relatively short length of the book, makes The Castle of Llyr accessible even for younger readers. The only real potential issue could be the number of place-names for readers to keep track of (Alexander’s fictional realm of Prydain is highly detailed), but this should not prove to be a major issue for the majority of readers. (3/10)
Quality of writing
As in the previous books in the Chronicles of Prydain, Alexander includes great detail and description in The Castle of Llyr. Not only do readers get more information about the realm of Prydain (the setting of the series), but they also are introduced to several fascinating new characters, each with their own unique personality and quirks. Furthermore, Alexander uses this book to explore themes such as loyalty, family, and trust through the characters’ actions, presenting these concepts in an engaging and accessible manner. Alexander’s writing is honestly a pleasure to read on multiple levels, and as such, The Castle of Llyr receives a 9/10 on quality of writing.
The Castle of Llyr contains practically no content which readers or parents should be concerned about, beyond a few scenes which some might consider “scary.” These include a scene in which a giant threatens to cook the protagonist, Taran, and his friends (which Alexander writes as being more funny than terrifying—the giant is, ironically, very cowardly), and another scene in which the character Eilonwy is forced to magically inflict significant pain on another character. However, in none of these scenes does Alexander discuss events in graphic detail, nor does he dwell over-long on particulars. In addition, The Castle of Llyr includes no language or sexual content and minimal battle scenes (of which none contain any concerning violence).
The Castle of Llyr is an engaging and interesting book, with well-written characters and a clear-cut plot. Furthermore, its length (only 170 pages) is ideal for keeping even younger readers engaged, as a longer book might be unable to. Overall, The Castle of Llyr is recommended for ages 8 and up.