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...Lloyd Alexander tells only one story: inexperienced and obtuse male hero + trickster-like storyteller/bardic character + unaccountably crabby female love interest + unfunny comic relief non-human animal-like character + irritating verbal tics for practically everyone + epic quests + secret royal heritage + Destiny = profit. I'm reading [or trying to read] The Book of Three right now, and it's driving me up the wall. All the characters come across as grating and annoying, with the exception of Gwydion, who's sensible and low-key and who just seems to belong to a different, less slapstick story.

Of Alexander's extensive YA oeuvre, I remember most fondly the Vesper Holly series.  Impossibly smart and improbably gifted, teenage orphan and heiress Vesper bounces from adventure to adventure in 1875 in various fictional countries, death and daring at her heels. She's a charismatic and indefatigable Mary Sue, but the stories work, in large part because they are told by Brinnie, her comparatively useless guardian. As an old straight white dude, he gets on my nerves to no end, but his combination of befuddlement, admiration and ultimately love for Vesper allows the reader a more accessible peg upon which to hang their sympathies. I really enjoyed these books growing up, and now I'd like to seek them out again...

 

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