Wow, wow, and wow! I thought the 4th book of The Chronicles of Prydain was the best, but that was before I read this stirring conclusion to the series! It begins with a joyful homecoming for Taran and Gurgi, which includes a reunion with Eilonwy, who has had more than enough of education about how to become a princess.
The sight of Fflewddur as he brings in a gravely wounded Gwydion cuts Taran's gladness short. His noble friend is nigh to death from an attack by the evil Huntsmen of Annuvin.Fflewddur recounts how the assault came as they responded to Taran's cry for aid. But Taran did not cry and was not beset by many enemies as the king-bard said he saw. The revelation the dark lord Arwan masterminded the deception stuns them all, as does the truth Gwydion's magical blade is now in the hands of the enemy.
After Gwydion makes an astonishing recovery, he and his beloved companions make for a castle en route to the man's final destination, the dark realm of Arwan himself, to retrieve his sword. But no sooner do they arrive at the friendly holding than they discover no old friend welcomes them but an old enemy. They escape but at a high price.
Gwydion decides to abandon his quest for his sword and raise an army against the one Arwan will soon send into the field against them. He charges his companions with the task to rouse all the free people and join him at his fortress.
Another great ally, Medwyn, sets his animal friends to gather their fellow creatures against the enemy. He gives a grim forecast if all free men and animals give anything but their utmost to defeat the dark lord and his allies: they will fall under the bitter domination of their enemy with joy and freedom snuffed out.
Many answer the call to arms, but not all are the allies they should be. The battle for Prydain begins anew, and it is terrible to behold: awful and awe-ful. "Amid the black pines the voice of the chief Bard rose in deep sorrow, yet it was sorrow without despair; and while the notes of the harp were heavy laden with mourning they held, as well, the clear strains of life and hope" (130).
What a wonderful book and series, strewn with true heroes and wisdom for them and readers to absorb and live out! Loved it!!