Robert Clay's Reviews > Phantastes

Phantastes by George MacDonald
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Oct 14, 2009

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Read in January, 2011

I became interested in George MacDonald after learning of his profound influence upon C.S. Lewis. This book, and MacDonald's other "fairie tales", are generally regarded as foundation stones of the sprawling palace that is the modern fantasy literature genre (many regard MacDonald as having practically invented the genre). Needless to say, I approached the book with high hopes; undoubtedly a bit too high. "Phantastes" was published in 1858; it is from a very different era, and must be recognized as such. It is not what I would consider a coherent novel with a singular plot, but rather, a rambling first person account of the varied adventures experienced by the author while in Fairie Land. I was considerably pleased upon first taking up the book, but by about the halfway point (the protagonist's time spent in the Fairie Palace) I was feeling bogged down and bored. The romantic, descriptive, highly sentimental language employed by MacDonald throughout the book I often found to be a bit much, even, dare I say, sappy (again, I'm the product of a different age). Still, at other times, I found his sentiments to be deeply profound, and beautifully expressed; I must confess, I think much of it had to do with the mood I myself happened to be in at the particular time of reading. Toward the end of the book, I found myself enjoying it again, and pleased to have read it (even if largely because it is regarded as such a seminal work). I can't say I'm rushing out to purchase another MacDonald tale, but I expect I'll read more of him sooner or later. I've heard good things about the "Curdie" books.
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