This wonderful children's novel tells the story of eight year old Princess Irene. Cared for by her nurse Lootie, she lives in a mountain farmhouse while her father rules over the region from a mountain top castle. The local folk work as miners but are beset by the Goblins who inhabit the underground. Irene is saved from the Goblins by Curdie, a thirteen year old miner, and she in turn saves him. The whole thing is told in a pleasant conversational style and is filled with humor, word games, magic, derring-do, and pure wonderment.
George MacDonald, a Congregational minister turned novelist, who seems nearly forgotten now, was one of the seminal figures in the development of Fantasy. His influence on other Fantasy authors is obvious, he was a childhood favorite of JRR Tolkein, who especially liked this book, and C.S. Lewis named him one of his favorite authors. His own stories draw on many of the themes and characters of classical European fairy tales. But where they were often merely horrific and meaningless, MacDonald adds a layer of Christian allegory. Thus, Irene and Curdie are eventually saved by a thread so slender that you can't even see it, but which leads them back to safety, teaching Curdie that you sometimes have to believe in things that you can't see.
The book would be interesting simply as a touchstone of modern fiction, but it stands up well on its own and will delight adults and children alike.