The Book of Three
by Lloyd Alexander
This is the story of an Assistant Pig Keeper with delusions of glory. Who couldn’t love that? The adventure really starts when Taran, the pig keeper in question, suddenly gets a taste of what real peril when his oracular pig escapes and the army of the Horned King starts searching for him.
The Book of Three is one of the few fantasy classics that I missed as a kid, but even as an adult, it’s great fun to read. It does have a lot of similarities to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings though: we’ve got an unlikely small-sized hero, a ragged good prince, an evil Horned King, some inhuman warriors, and I almost threw the book down when the Gollum-like Gurgi character appeared.
But unlike, another LOTR imitator Eragon, The Book of Three stands on its own. The characters are not cut-outs, and it has a plot of its own–the action rises out of the characters themselves. And characters are different: Gurgi is not really Gollum. And there’s a princess who let’s say is very original.
To be fair, as I noted in my list of top ten YA books, it’s really hard to find a fantasy that doesn’t reference Tolkien in some way. Still, I have to say that if you liked LOTR, you’ll probably like The Book of Three: it’s a bit more light-hearted and without Tolkien’s clunky high-style, it’s much more readable.