Monday, November 5, 2012

Lilith by George MacDonald

When George MacDonald's name appeared on the list I just naturally assumed it would be his best known work The Princess and the Goblin. I haven't read The Princess and the Goblin, but from what I'd heard it just seemed to fit as a Must-Read Fantasy work. However the writers of the list chose Lilith.

Lilith isn't that bad overall. George MacDonald's idea of fairyland is quite clever and very different. The hero; Mr Vanes, wanders through them after accidentally falling through a portal in his library. He befriends a group of young children, who if they grow up will become the unpleasant, brutish giant Bags. The 'little ones' eventually mobilise and go to war against the Princess of the land, taking control and delivering her to the seeming overall ruler of the land; Mr Raven.

There's an entertaining story in there, but it's hidden under endless theological discussions. The book is also hampered by a passive, badly drawn protagonist. It's readable, but two of the men MacDonald influenced; C. S Lewis and Lewis Carroll, did far better.

While reading the book elements of it brought to mind Carroll's Wonderland and Lewis' Narnia. I was also reminded of David Lindsay's A Voyage to Arcturus, which also features a passive protagonist who exists to conduct philosophical discussions with the other characters in the book. Interestingly enough another book I recalled while reading Lilith was Catherynne M. Valente's The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making.

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