Monday, March 12, 2018

Book Review: The High King by Lloyd Alexander

The High King by Lloyd Alexander (Black Cauldron Series), a Dell Yearling Book, New York, 1968.
For this book, Alexander won the Newbery Award. This is the fifth and final book in the series, and it is the most exciting.  All of the main characters come together for a desperate attack on the fortress of Arawn.  This is after he  comes farther than he has before into the realm of men, and steals the sword Drynwyn from Prince Gwydion.  The have left him badly wounded, but he is saved by the bard Fflewddur Fflam.  These leads to the desperate attempt to attack Arawn's home territory of Annuvin.  To Taran, and those with him, falls the task of visiting the countries Taran visited in his last book, and recruit and army to attack.  Taran is well liked, and he soon has a substantial army.  At the same time they are trying to keep and army of Cauldron-born from attacking those following Gwydion.  This book features the return of the love interest of Taran and Eilonwy.  Of course there is a third member of this triangle, Prince Rhun, now King Rhun.  But the King is killed in an heroic escape attempt. 
This book is very exciting, and with good reason the Newbery Award was given.  It is about finding your strength, and in the end, being willing to give up comfort for the right thing to do.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Movie Review: ***^Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)

This is a movie based on the Tom Clancy characters, but seems out of order in terms of the time line and the story.  Other than that, this is a very good story.  Jack Ryan versus a plot to start on economic catastrophe in America with a terrorist attack and then a dumping of U.S. dollars.  Keira Knightly is Jack's fiancé if she says yes.  She wants to see what he is up to and follows Jack on his trip, and becomes and impromptu agent.  Crazy stuff.  This of course doesn't go well when she is taken hostage.  Lots of action to the end here.  Very entertaining.
Does anyone have an explanation for the out-of-sequence nature of this movie.  Is this Jack Jr., or just taking liberty.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Book Review: Taran Wanderer

As Taran ages, he wants to discover his heritage, with the hopes of proving he is of royal lineage, and consequently worthy of the hand of Eilonwy.  Gurgi, his trusted companion travels with him.  Taran never finds his heritage, although one man claims to be his father and uses Taran's work to restore his farm.  What Taran does discover is more of who he is, and many friends.  He visits King Smoit, and assists him in solving a cattle war that has been going on for years.  He does this by rewarding the cows to a farmer, and the calves to the different parties.  They encounter Fflewddurr Fflam who joins him.  They meet Doli, of the Fair Folk, who is on a grave mission to discover how a wizard Morda has gained entry to the fair realm and stolen gold and jewels.  Morda quickly turns Fflam and Gurgi into animals, but he fails to turn Taran, saying it is like fighting himself.  Then Taran realizes that a bone the collected, is that of Morda, and into which he has put his life force so he could not be killed.  However Taran is able to break the bone and the life force.  Morda is no more, and all his enchantments melt away. 
But Taran continues to travel.  He meets many more interesting country folk, Hevydd the smith, Dwyvach the weaver, and Annlaw the potter.  He learns the trade of each, but does not become a master.  He realizes he has become who he is through hard work, and returns home, more confidant in himself.
Taran's character grows in this book.  However I missed Eilonwy.  She has been such a great part in the other books.  

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Movie Review: ***The Black Cauldron (1985)

This is a Disney movie, based on the novel by Lloyd Alexander.  It is not a musical.  This film was directed by the Mormon movie maker Richard Rich.  My thought about this movie is that somehow it missed the magic of the Alexander book of the same name.  In the book, Taran and Eilonwy are fascinating characters, and then you add Dolbi, Gurgi and Fflewddur Fflam and it is a very entertaining story.  The characters lack the same spark and spunk.  It gets really bad when the fair folk sound like little kids.  The voice of the evil Horned King is ridiculous.
So my conclusion is I love this book, just not this particular telling.  Read the book.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Book Review: The Castle of Llyr

The Castle of Llyr by Lloyd Alexander, A Dell Yearling Book, New York, 1966.
This is the third of the five books which include The Black Cauldron.  In this book, Taran has some competition in winning the love of Eilonwy.  This is in the person of Prince Rhun, whose parents are set to tutor the princess, and they hope their son and Eilonwy marry.  Eilonwy is leaving Caer Dallben to be trained in the ways of princesses.  Taran accompanies her to the island realm of Mona, which is close to the original home of Princess Eilonwy's people.
However, shortly after arriving a plot is made known to them to harm the princess. What is worse, there is a traitor in the castle.  Too late do Taran, and Prince Don (who has been there in disguise) react, and the princess is kidnapped.  The book then becomes one of rescuing the princess.  On their journey they meet a giant cat, who would have done them in but the cat likes the harp playing of the bard, Fflewunder.  They also meet the giant, who also almost does them in in trying to get out of a cave where he has trapped himself growing too large.  After their escape they travel to the island, Llyr, once inhabited by Eilowny's people, where they confront an old nemesis Achren.  She is hoping to use Eilonwy, control her and restore her powers. 
Somethings are not meant to be controlled however. 
Again I enjoyed this book.  I like the characters, and now we have a love triangle, Taran, Eilonwy and Prince Rhun.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Movie Review: ***^Jack Reacher (2012)

This is a Tom Cruise fast action adventure which doesn't disappoint.  This movie starts with the sniper style murder of five innocents.  Cruise plays Jack Reacher, an ex military police, who is called in by the defendant who is accused of killing five people by sniper fire.  reacher has been hiding for many years.  While in the military, reacher caught this guy who is accused of the murder, of killing innocent civilians in Iraq.  However things don't add up, and thus starts the action which leads to more murders, and eventually the kidnapping of Reacher's partner in the investigation, the defense attorney Helen (Rosamund Pike)  So Reacher has to save the day.  He includes and old guy )Robert Duvall) in his rescue, who ran the shooting range where the sniper, and the actually murderer practiced.  He has helped vindicate the actual person accused, and they are coming after the real killers. 
Lots of tense violence in this movie, if you like that type of thing.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Book Review: The Black Cauldron

The Black Caldron by Lloyd Alexander, A Yearling Book, Dell Publishing, New York, 1965.
This continues the story of the Assistant Pig Keep of Caer Dallben.  The Black Cauldron, is the means by which the Lord of Death has been increasing his forces.  He throws the body of a newly dead person into the cauldron, and they become undead.  These warriors do not die, nor do they live.  But even worse, the Dark Lord has sponsored several murders, so as to get more bodies for the cauldron.  Prince Gwydion as determined that they must attack the Dark Lord's realm, and destroy the cauldron.  Schemes are laid, and the plan carried out, except the cauldron has gone missing.  Taran, (assistant pig keeper) and his companions come upon clues which lead them to pursue the cauldron.  He travels with Guthrie, his loyal friend (a hairy being), Ellidyr, who is constantly harassing the pig keeper to prove his own worth as he is the youngest prince, and often forgotten, Adaon, son of the high bard,  and Fflewunder, a king but also a bard hopeful.  Doli, of the fairy folk is also with them.  They are separated from the others, and under attack, but seek refuge in the Fair Folk (undergrond people) way station.  There from Gwystyl and his crow, Kaw, they are given clues of where the cauldron has gone.  The decide to pursue the cauldron without waiting for others.  They must travel to the Marshes of Morva and confront three witches, who have taken the cauldron.  Ellidyr, seeking glory for himself, leaves the group.  they are attached and Adaon is killed.  He leaves to Taran a brooch which gives powers of seeing things, and sensing things.  This he later uses to purchase the cauldron from the three witches (the cauldron belongs to the witches, and the "repossessed it from Arawn the Dark Lord.)
However taking the cauldron back to Gwydion is a most difficult task.  Ellidyr comes upon them and steals the cauldron, then Morgant, a supposed ally takes the cauldron, with the hopes of rising to power.  This leads to a sharp battle.  The destruction of the cauldron comes from an unexpected source.
I am enjoying this series of the assistant pig keep who always seems to prove himself somehow.