The Princess and the Goblin was one of my favorite childhood books, My copy was read and re-read for the dreamlike sense of magic and wonder of the rooms at the top of the tower; the gritty terror of the goblins under the mountain.
I suppose one can read religious allegory into the story if one tries (and the same goes for the poignancy of The Light Princess), but in those cases the message never got in the way of the story.
Such is not the case with The Princess and Curdie. From page one to the end, the characters (there is nothing in particular to identify them with the characters of The Princess & the Goblin save for the names) walk through their roles woodenly in order to illustrate MacDonald’s religious and social beliefs. It’s unbelievably preachy – and most modern readers will find MacDonald’s ideas rather peculiar. His worldview is naively idealistic, verging on offensively classist. (Servants have a duty to serve honestly, a good child should have nothing to keep from his parents, drinking is bad (except if you’re a king; then it is wholesome), sophistication is bad, rustic naiivete is good, poverty is a privilege (!!!!)…. the list goes on.
If you’re looking for a fantasy with the beauty of the Princess and The Goblin, with that fairytale quality to it, try something by Patricia McKillip instead of this “sequel.”