Saturday, June 20, 2015

Classics Review: The Book of Three

Premise: When Hen Wen, an oracle pig, goes missing, Taran sets off on a quest to find her before the evil Horned King and his men. Along the way he joined by a diverse band including bards, magicians, and dwarfs. They must escape capture, battle magical creatures, and ultimately find that pig.

Title: The Book of Three
Author: Lloyd Alexander
Length: 190 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Series or Stand Alone: First book of a trilogy
Content appropriate for: Grades 4-8
Format: Audiobook from the library

Three adjectives that describe this book: action-packed, fun, lacking

I read this book as part of the Classics Club challenge to read 50 classics books in 5 years. My list is comprised entirely of children's books.

I bet if I were in the target audience (maybe grades 4-6) I would love this book. There was a ton of action and the story moved quickly. As a teacher of students in this age group, I know that most of them are looking for books with a lot of action, most haven't quite figured out how to incorporate character development and world-building. So this book is perfect for them. A straight-forward quest novel, moving from one danger to another, with some comic relief built in.

With Lord of the Rings coming about 20 years before this book, it felt almost as if Lloyd Alexander was trying to bring that format to younger readers. Yes, Tolkien gave us The Hobbit for young readers, but even that has quite a bit of complexity that is more suited to upper-middle grades and YA readers. So, The Book of Three fills a nice void for the 1960s.
Cartoon version of Hen Wen the pig & Taran the pigkeeper
But I wanted more development, both character AND world. We jumped from one event to another, with an array of characters who get little more than a cursory exploration. Folks join the band of questers without much thought, or any backstory. And the questers, themselves, make decisions about where to go and changes in course without any real clarity about what is happening. I pretty much stayed confused. Where are they going? Why? What does it look like? Who are those villains?

And the ending really really irritated me. We had to experience the climax battle with the villain second-hand because the main character was unconscious through the whole thing. Boo. Such a cop out. The Book of Three may have broken some ground for middle grade quest novels, but I'm glad that later titles made the genre more compelling and complete.

No comments:

Post a Comment