I love The Prydain Chronicles. For me, as with so many others, they were the first true Fantasy novels I ever read, giving me a life-long love of the genre. They’re funny and exciting and thought-provoking and strange. I reread them at least once every couple of years and am taken back to childhood wonder every time.
This being the case, I have no idea why it never occurred to me till about five years ago that Lloyd Alexander might have written other books that I should probably check out.
I discovered this when I heard rumours of a Prydain followup, a short story collection that contained some of his other scattershot thoughts on that magical world. I went searching, and sure enough, found not only The Foundling and Other Tales of Prydain (hurrah!), but also a bunch of other unrelated Alexander works.
I bought the lot.
This is the first one of them — except for The Foundling, of course — I’ve read.
And… well. The Arkadians did not quite capture me. Which is unfortunate, since not only is it by Lloyd Alexander, whom I would confidently have called one of my favourite writers for over three decades, but it is also a retelling of Greek Myth, and I can’t get enough of those.
This one is only tangentially tied to that pantheon, in fact, and perhaps that is where my expectations and reality collided, lessening my enjoyment of the book. There are references, sure, and even discussions, and there is some pointed parody of mythology in general that is amusing in places, but on the whole this isn’t so much a book about Greek Mythology as it is using mythological devices to tell an original story about Lucian, an accountant who is just too good at accounting; a poet who was turned into a donkey and is searching for a cure; and the forthright Joy-in-the-Dance, an oracle who insists on calling Lucian “Aii-Ouch”, after he greets her with the involuntary exclamation at their first meeting, and which is at first funny but gets kind of tiresome after a while.
Just like real joking-but-demeaning nicknames, I guess.
It’s not that I didn’t like this book. I did. It was… fine. It had originality on its side, despite its Ancient pedigree, and I liked that Joy-in-the-Dance had agency and was not afraid to use it. In fact, all the female roles were punched up way more than they are in much of mythology, which makes me think perhaps this is a kid lit Greek Mythology version of The Mists of Avalon. (Ugh. No wonder I didn’t love it.) I also thought it was very clever that this story was kind of a meta commentary on myths themselves, how they morph and grow over years of embellishment and should not be taken as faithful representations of events. (“If a storyteller worried about the facts, my dear Lucian, how could he ever get to the truth?”)
But I guess I was expecting something different, and that led to my disappointment.
In a kids’ book.
Yes, that is a thing that just happened to me.
I’m cool with it.
TBR DAY 81: The Arkadians by Lloyd Alexander
GENRE: YA, Mythology, Greek Mythology
TIME ON THE TBR: ~5 years.
PURCHASED FROM: Amazon.