Originally reviewed 29th May, 2011
The second of Evangeline Walton’s retellings of the Four Branches of the Mabinogion, The Children of Llyr is heartwrenching. The story of Pwyll, Prince of Annwn — it’s harrowing enough at times, fearing that he’s messed everything up, that nothing will be good again… But the story of the children of Llyr is something else again, the destruction of two races, of a whole way of life.
It’s better than the first book, to my mind: it got under my skin so much, so that I could hardly bear to keep reading, but I could hardly bear to stop. I fell in love with Manawydan, especially, and ached for Branwen, for Nissyen, and even at the end for Evnissyen. Evangeline Walton really brought the tales to life, here, and made them feel vibrant and urgent and pressing. She had to add less, I think, to make the story interesting, so it’s also perhaps more true to the source.
My only complaint is the slight preachiness, near the end, where Bran the Blessed talks about governments and so on. It’s an anachronism, which the text acknowledges, and it pulled me out of it.
There’s such a sense of inevitability, of doom, of all the bright things going dull… I loved it. Much as I love the stories of the Mabinogion, my heritage, they weren’t set on fire for me until reading this.