This fourth volume of The Chronicles of Prydain begins with a restless Taran asking his guardian and foster father, Dallben, who his parents were. As the man says, he does not know, Taran begs leave to depart and find out. His faithful companion, Gurgi, accompanies, even though the news they will travel first to a marshland and visit three enchantresses does not sit well with him at all. But Taran hopes they can give him the information he so earnestly seeks.
The young man begins to regret his decision before they even arrive, but he does not turn back. Once the three women demand a price paid for their information about his parents, Taran says he already gave them the thing he most valued in exchange for the Black Cauldron. This time he promises to give whatever he will come to value the highest in the future for them to claim whenever they chose. Fortunately, they refuse, but they offer another source which may hold the secret to his identity.
During this latest and most personal of Taran's quests, he encounters old and new friends, new enemies and perils just as terrible as any he already experienced. But his wisdom grows in equal measure.
What a powerful book! The best one so far in this series - still one to go! I love Taran and the growth he has. My favorite quote is from Hevydd, the blacksmith: "Life's a forge, say I! Face the pounding; don't fear the proving; and you'll stand well against any hammer and anvil!"