The High King

by Lloyd Alexander

Paperback, 1979



Call number

PB Ale

Call number

PB Ale

Local notes

PB Ale




Dell Publishing (1979), Paperback


In this final part of the chronicle of Prydain the forces of good and evil meet in an ultimate confrontation, which determines the fate of Taran, the Assistant Pig-Keeper who wanted to be a hero.

Original publication date


Physical description

6.7 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member StormRaven
The last of the Chronicles of Prydain, and a worthy climax to the series. The bulk of this book describes the war between Arwan and the rest of Prydain, led by High King Math, Prince Gwydion, and the rest of the Sons of Don. Taran and his companions gather together the people Taran has befriended
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on his many journeys and join their side, fighting under Taran's banner of a white pig.

Much of the war goes badly for the heroes - they are betrayed by those they depended upon, sacrifices must be made, good men fall. For a book aimed at a younger audience, the book is definitely dark, and the war quite brutal; many characters who have been in the series for numerous books die. Finally, through a twist that was quite a surprise to me when I read the book the first time (albeit when I was much younger), Arawn is defeated.

But that's not the end. And in many ways, the elements of the book that follow Arawn's defeat are the most important part of the book - the choices Taran and his friends must make in victory are the most critical, and without them, the book (and in many ways, the entire series) would have been a throwaway piece of fluff.
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LibraryThing member mariacle
The fifth and final book detailing Taran's life begins with his friend, Prince Gwydion being attacked by Arawn, Death-Lord's huntsmen. Arawn makes off with Gwydion's sword, Dyrnwyn which could have disastrous results. Gwydion makes for Annuvin to regain his lost sword and along the way learns that
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Arawn is clearly making an all-out bid for power over the land of Prydain. Gwydion abandons his quest for Dyrnwyn to lead the men of Prydain in battle against Arawn's warriors. Taran becomes a war leader in his own right and learns that war, while occasionally necessary, is an ugly thing with no real glory in it.
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LibraryThing member HippieLunatic
The High King was an excellent finish to a story of how a boy can grow into a man. While I am a reader drawn to characterization rather than plot (and therefore loved books 3 and 4 over all), I have to admit that 5 was a nice mix of action and development.

All women with boys (or adult male geeks)
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in her life should read these books.
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LibraryThing member SweetKokoro
You can find this review and many more on my blog:
Into The Heartwyld

The final book in the Chronicles of Prydain and I can safely say this was my 2nd favorite of the entire series (My first being The Black Cauldron)

One thing I can for sure say that I truly enjoyed about Alexander's storytelling was
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his ability to not shy away from death. I have read my share of childrean's books and while there are some out there that do include death, I feel the amount that was present in this book was a lot, and it was all characters that while being a side character still managed to hurt when their life was taken, and it's because he had a way of making you care for everyone that came into the story.

The story starts out sweet and then it turns and war finally starts, and we finally get that long awaited battle with the Death Lord Arawn, which to be honest was nice, for awhile there he just kept being mentioned in passing that it almost felt like the big battle would never come.

Glew was a character I could have completely done with out this entire book, and I mean that whole heartily, he just didn't bring anything to the story for me. Eilonwy was back and her usual self so I was glad for that, after going two books with her being basically non existent it was nice to have the leading lady return.

I will say the final battle was a little disappointing but it was expected. The thing I didn't like most was the final chapter, something about this Summer Country bit just felt.... odd. I cant really explain it, but it felt so out of place left this weird vibe with me.

Overall, it was great read and If I was child I would have enjoyed this very much.
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LibraryThing member MeditationesMartini
So Taran comes back like Neo from the Matrix--significantly, this is the only book of the series that doesn't begin with him at Caer Dallben waiting to enter fairyland, but out in it waiting to come home. He demonstrates his dialogism, his new facility turning aside the programmatic patter of the
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princess Eilonwy. And the road is paved for a good popcorn-fantasy romp, with all the troublesome issues about what is this world and who are we that read it laid to rest.

And for a good while it works--there is fellowship, sacrifice, betrayal, heartbreak, horror, &c. (I still don't get why they brought the former giant Glew along at all, but) everyone gets their chance to show their mettle, and when Prince Rhun and Llonio son of Llonwen and Coll son of Collfrewr pay their price you gnash your teeth in sorrow, of course; and you thrill at the adventures underground just as you play high-fantasy tourist at picturesque locales like the Red Fallows. The discovery of the sword Dyrnwyn, the victory on top of the mountain over the Cauldron-born, the inevitable fulfillment of the prophecy, these are played skilfully if predictably, but there are also moments of real pathos--Fflewddur Fflam's sacrifice of his harp comes so suddenly and painfully--and quirky puzzlesolving triumph, like when Doli figures out how to use his invisibility cannily to avoid the enchantment that makes him sick unto death in Annuvin, that kind of make you want to cheer (as well as screaming "D&D").

But the ending turns it all into cardboard. Lord Arawn makes his big creepy play and fails and runs, and then everybody's standing around in the wreckage and Gurgi runs out of the treasure-house (saving the scrolls with the ancient knowledge of the craftsmen, an idiosyncrasy of Alexander's being his love of the working man, for which I appreciate him), and then at the least dramatic possible moment Arawn pops up again as a serpent, and Taran dispatches him with dispatch, and he takes Queen Achren down with him for no reason other than to give his death a spurious weightiness--playing up, again, the derivativeness of this fantasy world, when the whole last chapter is just a rushed and embarrassed through-the-motions aping of the passing of the Elves Sons of Don into Westernesse the Summer Country. And sure, Taran stays, and you can do a reading where the sudden flat dimness of Prydain at the very end is a token of the end of fantasy and the beginning of the age of man, his lost craft returned to him, but the ending doesn't leave you wanting to extend that kind of charity. Still, prior to that there's a lot of cast-of-thousands battling, brilliant set pieces, fantasy melodrama, and in that sense this is not an unworthy end to a not-unworthy series.
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LibraryThing member kraaivrouw
The is the last book in The Chronicles of Prydain and it is my least favorite, I think because it's the most epic. Don't get me wrong - this book is wonderful and this entire series is an amazing and wonderful read, no matter what age you are. For me, however, the power of these books lies in the
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personal, in the smaller journeys and the finding of friendships, in the scary moments, but also in the really funny ones.

The High King takes the fellowship to a new level. This is the story of the final battle against the dark, of sacrifices made, of defeats, victories and choices. Its scope is sweeping and its story is haunting. It's a wonderful series. You should read them all!
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LibraryThing member The_Hibernator
In the fifth, and final, novel in the Chronicles of Prydain, the final battle with the Death Lord takes place—and all the old buddies from previous books come out to play war. In many ways, this book is darker than the earlier ones. Although it is still appropriate for any child who is capable of
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reading it (fourth or fifth grade), it may be scary for very young kids who are being read to. Despite this, The High King was the best of the Prydain books. It taught good moral values, was cute and sweet, and never crossed the level of violence that some more recent children’s books achieve. Definitely a classic of children’s fantasy!
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LibraryThing member Diwanna
Great ending to a fantastic series. I bit like Lord of the Rings for a younger audience.
LibraryThing member tapestry100
The final book in the Chronicles of Prydain series, the High King is the most comparable with the Lord of the Rings series, but I feel can faithfully stand on its own. I think it's hard to write a book of this nature without comparing it to Tolkien's series. Alexander wraps up his series quite
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nicely, giving each main character their due in this book. Sometimes predictable, but again most books of this nature are, the plot still provides some nice twists and turns right up to the final battle. In the end, a fun series to read for both kids and adults.
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LibraryThing member goodnightmoon
Difficult to get into if you haven't read the previous four books. For me, that detracted from its effectiveness as a Newbery winner. I had to reread many sections and didn't emotionally connect to the character or to the stories. Enjoyable enough, but not fantastic.
LibraryThing member inkdrinker
The High King (HK) is one of my favorite youth novels and one of my favorite fantasy books. It is a far better read than the Narnia books and as a whole contains more complex messages and doesn’t contain racist tints or negative views of women.

For those seeking an in road to this genre for their
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kids I would recommend this book (and the series which comes before) hands down over Narnia. HK is not a better book because it presents more realist views of groups of people, but also because the characters actually read and feel like real people. The Narnia characters have always read as very flat and lifeless. HK’s characters by contrast struggle with what it means to be good. They don’t always come out on top of this issue, but in the end they learn from mistakes and grow and change. They don’t become great people. They just become better people than they were before the story started. Oh, this growth doesn’t always make them happy. They worry about themselves and feel badly for who they have been at times.

All these comparisons aside, this book is a great read. The story is intense, scary, and suspenseful (even for adults) and the end leaves you wishing there were more books to follow (always a good sign).

I give it an A+
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LibraryThing member SHARONTHEIL
This is the final book in Lloyd Alexander’s Young Adult fantasy series, the Prydain Chronicles. In this, the final battle, a desperate war is waged against Arawn, the lord of death. The hero, Taran, has traveled from being an assistant pig-keeper to being a self-aware and mature leader. This is
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one of the few Young Adult fantasy books that have won the Newbery Medal. The characters are more complex, and the plot more intricate than A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’engle which won the Newbery Medal in 1962. The themes of mercy, sacrifice, and redemption creates a novel of deep power akin to Crispin The Cross of Lead by Avi.
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LibraryThing member debnance
I’ve tried to read this series a dozen times and I’ve always given up until now. This time I started with the last book in the series and I couldn’t put the book down. The author assures the reader in the introduction that though this is the final book in his series it is a stand alone; I
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found this to be so. The characters are slowly led on the stage, with their past exploits clearly delineated. I never felt unclear or confused. I grew to love all the characters, even the whiny Glew and the shifty Achren. The author, without revealing any of the clever twists of the plot, brings everything to a firm, though not always happy, conclusion.
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LibraryThing member hobbitprincess
I enjoyed this last of the Prydain books, but I still have a hard time getting past the similarities to The Lord of the RIngs. This book had a lot more action than the previous 4 and had more a the flavor of an adult book than a YA book. There was, after all, a lot of fighting and dying, even of
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some characters readers surely had grown to love. I was pleased with the ending, actually, although I know that some readers don't care for it. Overall, a nice series.
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LibraryThing member TnTexas
Overall a satisfying ending to a good adventure series, even if it is highly reminiscent of Tolkein's ending for The Lord of the Rings series. Taran and Eilonwy have grown into their roles, and you sense that Prydain's going to be just fine - a good place to leave everything.
LibraryThing member SunnySD
Prydain is once more wracked by shivers of war as the evil Arawn's henchman spread across the Caers. Prince Gwydion and Taran rally the forces of good, but will it be enough? Bloody battle and death, and ultimately? Of course a happy ending.
LibraryThing member tloeffler
The last of the Chronicles of Prydain. In this finale, many loose ends are tied up and we finally see what Taran is really made of. Lots of excitement, many battles, too many disappointing deaths. Still, a fun series and I'm glad I've read them.
LibraryThing member loafhunter13
The series might have been strongest in books 3 and 4 which forced Alexander out of the familar realm and away from teh normal antagonists. This books is a conclusion to all the tales and is certainly the most ambitious in that regard. The prose flows comfortably but it should as it has been the
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same material, for the most part, since the first. Amny plot lines are ended, some rather haphazardly and some deftly. The conclusion itself is quick and somewhat intuiative though not befitting the buildup of the previous four books. A decent fantasy series for young readers, the chroncile as a whole suffers from borrowed plot ideas, awkward plot advancement, and questionable character development. The tapestry of Welsh myth would be better suited to more colorful writing.
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LibraryThing member AshRyan
Finally, books I remember enjoying as a kid that still stand up to re-reading as an adult!
LibraryThing member Hamburgerclan
Hmmm, Iread this a number of months ago and jotted down a note to give this five stars when i got around to writing a review. Oh, well. I don't remember much about the book, save that it finishes the overall tale of Taran and his friends that started in "The Book of Three". Heh. Go ahead and read
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it. It'll be fun.
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LibraryThing member JenJ.
Meh. It's not a good sign when I'm thinking that I can run a war better than you can. I did like getting the alternate viewpoints for the first time instead of just living in Taran's head, but I need a little more leavening in my fantasy. This was entirely too earnest for me.

Listening to Listening
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Library audio narrated by James Langton. Previously read for Children's Lit course Spring 2007.
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LibraryThing member cmbohn
One of my favorite series of all time. I love the characters and I am always sad to say goodbye to them when I finish reading.
LibraryThing member kslade
I read the whole series but am just listing this one. Really excellent books. Part of a mythic model of a young boy not worth much who does great things with interesting companions.
LibraryThing member themulhern
This book lacks the appeal of the rest. Most likely it suffers from being the ending, the very last book in the series, and endings are difficult to do well. The major defect, a defect that is shared by "The Lord of the Rings" is that there are too many ill-described battles. The various good folk
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muster a little too happily to the war which is pending. We often encounter Gwydion travelling alone in previous books and we've learned to accept it, but the way he loses his sword in the beginning of this book makes him seem kind of foolish. The ending, when everybody gets on their boats and travels to the Summer Lands smacks of Tolkien as well.

Nonetheless this has many excellent parts and is at its best when the companions get cut off from the war host and have to do their thing on their own as in the previous books.

Alexander's efforts to make Eilonwy more than a pretty thing are much appreciated, but she's still a girl, and hence inferior by convention. However, the narratives of her capture and escape near the end of the novel or her rescue of the companions near the beginning are really some of the best in the novel.

Prince Rhun is an archetypal nerd, well-meaning, not physically adept, perceptive in some ways, curious about much, but always an outsider. I was sorry to see him die.
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LibraryThing member bintarab
The whole Chronicles of Prydain series is well-written, imaginative, and was my introduction as a kid to a lifetime love of fantasy fiction. These books tackle large philosophical issues like bullying, the nature of heroism, social responsibility, altruism, and good vs. evil.

Appropriate for
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middle-schoolers or even 5th and 6th graders.
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