The High King is the last book in the Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. I’ve also ordered The Foundling and other tales of Prydain; a book of short stories that complements the series.
Even though Arawn Death-lord of Annuvin has suffered great defeats, this time the entirety of Prydain will feel his wrath. The Sons of Don must come together and put aside their quarrels to unite against the forces of Annuvin. Taran and his companions too will join the fray, but do they have any hope of winning free of Arawn and his foul grasp on Prydain?
The last book in the series. Wow, what a way to end things. Everything that happened during the series mattered, and everyone met in these books had a part to play. It felt good to see familiar faces enter the conflict, and it made me sad when they left it, not always whole. Not always alive.
What I liked about this book (and the previous books) that victory is never a sure thing. There are failures and defeats. Friends slain and foes not captured. Even an entire country rising up to Arawn doesn’t mean they will eventually succeed. There’s the Cauldron-Born and the Huntsmen. There are servants of evil completely mortal, yet choosing to do serve a bad man. There are those who were supposed to be honourable, who betray or are betrayed. There are good people who think they themselves can be master of Annuvin and bring good to the world again, through evil means.
Our heroes aren’t invincible, they get hurt and sometimes they die. Precious things are lost, relationships torn asunder, and Prydain will never be the same again – no matter which sides wins.
And yet throughout this journey, this conflict, I kept cheering those who opposed Arawn on. Taran, Eilonwy, Gurgi, Flewddur, Prince Gwydion, Dallben, the people from the Commots, King Smoit, the Free Folk, the animals, King Rhun, Achren, Glew, Hen Wen and Coll. I will miss reading about them.
With a great swelling of the heart I read through the last pages of this book and I suspect I shall reread these books frequently in the years to come.