I’m torn about this one. In previous books, Eilonwy (the only girl) was a pretty static character. She became more fond of Taran, but that was the extent of her development. This book was supposed to fix that, according to Alexander “what befalls the heroine is as important, and perilous, as the hero’s own quest.”
But Eilonwy is barely in this book. Most of the novel is concerned with rescuing her, putting her into the exact damsel in distress position that was so brilliantly inverted in “The Book of Three.” Then, when she is almost rescued, she gets all stuck up and amnesiac and helpless and ruins the plan.
Finally, rather than a heroic climax, she saves the day unknowingly. She senses that everyone around her wants her to destroy a book of magic, and when she does so she becomes a helpless damsel.
Mostly I’m just annoyed that she was barely in the book.
It takes a bit of poking at this plot to make it give up its truth. She says at the end that “I knew it was my only chance to become an enchantress, and if I gave up my powers then that would be the end of it.” But then she compares her own choice to one Taran made in the previous book. Taran gave up a brooch that granted him magical, mystical abilities. It made him, for the first time, the hero that he dreamed of being. It made him wise and strong. And when he surrendered it, he had to accept that he would be nothing but himself. Eilonwy made a similar choice–to surrender power and come to terms with the fact that there were no shortcuts to being better.
At the book’s start, a Merlin characters says “For each of us comes a time when we must be more than what we are.” This is not about power. This is about growing up. To learn to recognize the difference between the two is an essential part of living. At least, it is in Prydain. Perhaps here too.