Folks, sometimes I read a book just so you don’t have to. It was an absolute slog trying to get through this sequel to The Princess and the Goblin. MacDonald, a minister, is clearly on a moralizing tear. There are long sections on accountability, responsibility, and believing in things you cannot see. There are examples of the evils of alcohol and greed and a nice little piece on how it is a privilege to be poor.
His vocabulary doesn’t get any more accessible either, keep an eye (and a dictionary) out for atomy, carbuncular, circumfulgent, adit, and opprobrious – to name some of the hardest words I bumped into.
On top of that, Princess Irene doesn’t even surface until Chapter 19 and when she does, she’s considerably less helpful, useful and interesting than she was a book ago. Also, the violence increases to a remarkable level (if the threats of roasting alive don’t get you, the difficulty in removing a mattock from the brain of a freshly murdered bulldog just might). Finish up with a kiss between the newly betrothed Irene and Curdie (ages 9, so no, that’s not her writhing on the cover, and 13 respectively) and you may find you’ve strained your eyeballs what with all the rolling.
Great for: People who are looking for Christian allegories.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – The princess and Curdie kiss.
Profanity – There is one “ah, God” but I don’t think MacDonald means it in a cursing sort of way. Curdie is called “a booby of a miner.”
Death, Violence and Gore – There are countless threats, ranging from threats of roasting people alive, burning down houses with all occupants trapped inside to plain old threats of killing. Curdie shoots and injures a pigeon. Curdie is attacked by birds which tear his flesh, Lina fights them to protect him and is injured herself. Lina crushes many things (people, animals) in her powerful jaws. Curdie digs his mattock into dogs (see aforementioned bulldog) and dreams of putting it through the skull of an evil doctor.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – Curdie drinks wine. His beast animal drinks wine. Everyone drinks wine.
Frightening or Intense Things – The kingdom is in peril, there are wars. Curdie is trapped in a dungeon. The whole end of the story ends on a rather down note with the city collapsing and killing all its inhabitants. I think we’re supposed to be okay with this ending because a. it happens after Curdie and Irene are dead and b. those people were greedy and immoral and deserved it (please see above about a minister on a moralizing tear).