Goodreads Review: Phantastes by George MacDonald

PhantastesPhantastes by George MacDonald

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Let me start off by saying wow, what a great read. That’s what I thought at least, but your opinion may differ. Let me explain.

The book’s full title (in earlier editions) is Phantastes: A Faerie Romance for Men and Women by George MacDonald. I mention that because I would certainly not call this a romance story at all. If you go into reading this book with that predisposition, I think you’ll be sorely disappointed.

The story follows a traditional fantasy narrative where a boy gets whisked away into the land of faerie, goes through an adventure, and in the process becomes a man. I guess you could say there are a couple of romantic interests, but certainly not romances. Most of the story you get the sense that you’re in a dream that has somehow become real. That fits the story well since the writing is very flowery and the story itself is very whimsical and magical. Then once that’s all swirling in your cauldron, you add a few drops of darkness and it deepens the story to really drag you in. This makes it very easy for you (the reader) to place yourself in the protagonist’s shoes and really be taken for an enjoyable ride.

There were a few parts of the story that I felt really didn’t need to be in there and that kind of pulled me out of the narrative a little. For instance, there was a whole chapter where you are placed in the shoes of a different character going through a different narrative because the protagonist of this story is reading a story. This was a little confusing at first because it was almost as if you were reading a different book in the middle of the one you were just reading. The problem I have with it isn’t that it was confusing so much as I don’t see what it had to do with the main story at all. I thought I would eventually figure it out, and I did not. So it was a whole chapter that was rather long that pulled me out of the story entirely for seemingly no reason. That’s the biggest example of what I’m talking about, but there were a few less notable examples as well.

Regardless of the minor shortcomings of this novel, I still recommend it with 5 out of 5 stars. The writing was so beautiful that it was immediately captivating to me. Even the points where I got pulled out of the story due to structural issues, I still got pulled right back in once they were corrected. I could never consider a story so captivating and enjoyable to be a waste of time, so I definitely recommend you read it for yourself and come to your own conclusion. If you too are a fan of fantasy, I don’t think you’ll regret it.

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Published by: Michael Anthony Rullo

The quote, “ pense, donc je suis…” by René Descartes means, "...I think, therefore I am..." in English. I write it in the language it was originally written because I want to represent it as closely as possible to its truest meaning. This quote is one of only two quotes to come from philosophy that cannot be disproved, doubted, or otherwise refuted in any significant way (at least in my opinion). To sum up the first, I cannot doubt my existence as a "thinking thing" because to doubt is to think, and to think is to exist as a thinking thing at the very least. So I do not believe it can be doubted that you exist at least as a thinking thing - even if you can possibly doubt everything else. The second can be stated as follows: nothing cannot exist. If it were to exist, it would then be something. By definition, something cannot be something and nothing at the same time. Even though most people would believe these two statements to be irrelevant in their perceptions of reality, to me they offer hope. If nothing cannot exist, and I can be certain that I exist as a thinking thing, then to me this implies that whatever this thinking thing is it cannot cease to exist simply because our corporeal bodies do. Therefore I have hope that when our bodies parish we will experience some sort of continued existence. Although I don't claim to know what that is, I have hope that my mind will continue on in a different form of existence: whatever that may be. This is who I am. A man who could not be satisfied by religion, nor by a lack thereof as a means of coping with my mortality. This small chain of logic has brought me peace, and if it turns out in the end that I am wrong: my mind will live on through my writing.

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