Review: Phantastes

Phantastes by George MacDonald
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I know that I read this once before, many moons ago. But my only recollection of it consisted in the fact that I had read it. I recently decided to read it again because of the impact it had on Lewis. Having done so, I can only conclude that Lewis saw a great deal more in it than I was able to, although I did enjoy it — particularly the last third. There are some great moments. But it struck me as kind of a fairy land hodge podge, only with the hodge parts and the podge parts packed closely together by hand. Anyway.

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Rob Steele
Rob Steele

Hated it myself, though I have a friend who loves it and did a doctoral dissertation on it. My favorite MacDonald are his pot-boiler romances. Poor but worthy crofter turns out to be the true laird, the proud are cast down and somebody gets saved.


This is a really weird book, although I think I see some of what Lewis liked as there were some haunting parts. MacDonald was the H G Wells of the modern fantasy genre. I doubt we would have Lewis’s or Tolkien’s fantasy novels without MacDonald. However, like H G Wells, MacDonald’s fantasy itself has not dated well and doesn’t appeal to modern readers who are used to more refined scifi and fantasy conventions. However don’t let that put you off reading him. I prefer the Princess and the Goblin to Phantastes as a starter to MacDonald fantasy. Like Rob Steele,… Read more »

Giddy Feathertop
Giddy Feathertop

I get brought to tears by almost everything I read from him (not a real test of greatness but does show a strong and consistent connection). I recently finished ‘Curdie’ and was very powerfully moved. My Commonplace Books are filled with his stuff. MacDonald is a gift to the world that mostly gets ignored: that’s why I’m so glad to see him mentioned here. More people need to read him.