After the events of Princess and the Goblin, the old princess, young Irene's great-great-grandmother, sends for Curdie and gives him a strange and somewhat terrifying gift—the power to tell, by grasping a person's hand, whether or not they are turning into a beast. She does so in order to send him off on a quest. She doesn't tell him where he is supposed to go or what he is supposed to do, merely to go. To aid him on his journey she gives him the strange, misshapen beast, Lina—a creature who, as Curdie soon discovers when he grabs her paw, is a beast turning into a human child.
In some places this book is darker and more disturbing than its prequel. For example, see the gruesome illustration on page 181, where Lina takes a bite out of a man's leg, or ponder for a moment the disturbing implications of men turning into beasts. Perhaps more confusing than disturbing are the theological allegories scattered across the book. MacDonald's novels typically defy interpretation, and Princess and Curdie is no exception. That's not to say that there is nothing to be gleaned from the book. On the contrary, there are many places in the book that, taken independently, are great allegories for the Christian life. But taken as a whole, MacDonald's message is full of undefinable parallels that hint of Pelagianism.
Taken merely at surface value, however, the book is a fine coming-of-age adventure featuring all the charaters from Princess and the Goblin, and some great new ones. Just don't strain yourself trying too hard to figure out what all MacDonald was saying. Some things are better left enjoyed at surface value.
Review by Lauren Shearer
Lauren Shearer writes words for fun and profit. She also makes films, but everyone knows you can't make a profit doing that. Her other hobby is consistently volunteering way too much of her time. You can read more of her reviews here.
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