The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander
Reasons for reading: I've been meaning to because it's one of my husband's childhood faves; Daring Book Challenge and Fantasy for the Genre Challenge
Summary (from Kirkus UK): "Assistant pig-farmer, Taran craves adventure and longs to be a hero. So when magical pig, Hen Wen escapes, his desires turn to reality as he embarks upon a dangerous quest to find her. Set in the mystical country of Prydain, Taran must brave perilous lands, mysterious creatures and face the terrifying and evil Horned King. Along the way, a colourful cast of characters provide Taran with worldly wisdom and witty banter, while the "crunchings and munchings" of the adorable Gurgi will captivate everyone's hearts. Originally published in 1964, The Book of Three is the first in Alexander's fantasy series, The Chronicles of Prydain, and has won him numerous praise and awards, including the prestigious Newbery Medal. Combining traditional storytelling with the struggle of good versus evil, this is a fast-paced and entertaining fantasy adventure."
First line: "Taran wanted to make a sword; but Coll, charged with the practical side of his education, decided on horseshoes."
My thoughts: I'm not really a high fantasy girl, so at first I was a bit resistant to the medieval, pseudo-Welsh setting of Prydain. I did like that it was fast-paced and not many hundreds of pages long. But I soon came to like Taran, who wants to be a warrior and hero before he truly knows what those words mean, but does become both by the end of the book. And really, who can resist an "oracular pig"? Big, white, smiling Hen Wen the pig is a character herself. Wolfhound/humanoid thing Gurgi reminded me a lot of Gollum and I wouldn't describe him as adorable, but he eventually won me over. And chatty, chatty Eilonwy is both an irritating little girl and quite fab - I liked how she kept putting Assistant Pig-Keeper Taran in his place and ended up being much more important than she seemed at first.
Verdict: Not sure if I'll read the whole series, but I might some day. And I'm glad that I've read this fave of my husband's and that I can now recommend it to fantasy-seeking kids.