When I was a child, I had seen The Black Cauldron in my brother's bookshelf. I thought I had read it. I don't think I ever did. I definitely wanted to read it with Evalina, and when I decided to find it, I realized it was a series! I am a bad geek, because I didn't know that. Oops. So - first things first, this is the first book in the series, and it's (somewhat ironically) called The Book of Three.
The Story: Taran is an assistant pig keeper, caring for a prophetic pig, Hen Wen. When Hen Wen escapes, and Taran goes after her, a whole new adventure enters his life in ways that he didn't expect. He meets Gwydion, a fabled hero, who doesn't quite live up to his expectations on first meeting. Evil forces, led by the menacing Horned King, are gathering to overtake the neighboring kingdom, and from there the entire kingdom. When he and Gwydion are captured, Taran meets a strange young girl named Eilonwy, a curious creature named Gurgi, and a host of others, who join on the quest to save the realm.
The Good: Taran is a realistically flawed hero. He doesn't set out to be a savior. He wants a little more excitement than he gets in his normal pig-keeper life, but he certainly doesn't plan on the kind of adventure he gets. He is a kind and true friend. Evalina's favorite part of the whole book was Gurgi. Though he starts out as less than admirable, he grows wonderfully throughout the story, and he has a different way of speaking, which Evalina loved. The characters in the book are really appealing and I can't wait to find out more about them with Evalina.
The Bad: Some of the names are ridiculously hard to pronounce, seemingly for no reason except to make them hard to pronounce. Tripping over my tongue is not fun when reading aloud. There are some moments of real suspense, and The Horned King is really terrifying, along with the Cauldron Born warriors. This just makes for good story telling, for the most part, though. The names are the only thing I can think of that are really bad about this book.
The Verdict: This would not be really easy for Evalina to read by herself, though Amazon lists it for 8 and up. She really loved it, and I can't wait to read the rest of the series with her! I can absolutely recommend it.