I finished Lloyd Alexander’s last work sometime last week. The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio was light, and in keeping with how I know Alexander’s work to be: seemingly simple, but something with great depth. I loved the characters he created, as usual — for all the short time I got to know them, by the time I ended the book I loved them all.
The story is about Carlo, who is forced to leave his uncle’s home after a disastrous errand. Armed with only a treasure map and a coat with gold coins sewn in (effectively “wearing [his] fortune on [his] back…not the most fashionably dressed, but, no doubt, the most expensively”, in Carlo’s own words), he travels to Sidya and meets the beautiful, capable Shira and the rather shady Baksheesh, who goes with him on his journey on the Golden Road in order to find the treasure.
The story is an adventure, both literally and in the self-discovery sense. As someone who loves The Prydain Chronicles, I’ll go ahead with comparisons between the two. Like the idealistic Taran, Carlo must go through the same learning and awakening. Like Taran, he is kept wondering about the real deal with Shira, who admits to liking him but tells him that she will leave him. Like Fflewddur Fflam, Baksheesh loves exaggeration and won’t scruple to hide the truth (but as someone who’s always complaining, I admit to getting annoyed with Baksheesh!). I’d say Baksheesh is a mix between Doli and Fflewddur, leaning more on the Doli-scale. And the wise old man Salamon? He’d be in a league all his own. I loved the interaction between the ever-optimistic Salamon and the complaining Baksheesh.
My favorite secondary character would have to be Bashir, however, of the Bashir-Bazouks. He doesn’t come in until much later in the book, but he’s filled with such life, simplicity, enthusiasm, and good will. Even when you feel you should hate him, you just can’t get yourself to hate him. And for a secondary character who doesn’t have much screen time, it almost feels like you know him already; he’s not flat or stereotypical.
I admit to feeling that the book was far too short, that I would have wanted to be with Carlo, Shira, Baksheesh, and Salamon more. The Chronicles of Prydain are still my favorite Lloyd Alexander books, but The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio is still one amazing, well-written book that shouldn’t be passed on.