I recently read The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio (2007), Lloyd Alexander's last book, assuming no further posthumous publications are on the way. The Golden Dream was not on my ever-growing list of books to read, but the gold and blue spine--think Morocco--shouts for attention on a library shelf. The cover artist and designer deserve some serious praise. I'm glad I read it and recommend it to anyone looking for a good story.
Like many of Alexander's stories, The Golden Dream records a road trip. The hero takes a journey but there is also a bit of a stranger comes to town mixed in. The narrator and protagonist is Carlo Chuchio, a naive young man and an orphan--known in his hometown, Magenta, as Carlo Chooch, "Carlo the jackass." The story begins with the gift of a book of tales, reminiscent of the One Thousand and One Arabian Nights. Carlo finds a treasure map hidden in the spine. The map leads to a hoard of treasure hidden on the Road of Golden Dreams. After one too many clerical errors, his Uncle Evariste sacks him and kicks him out of his house. Feeling guilty about throwing a family member onto the street, Evariste gives Carlo a substantial amount of gold as a parting gift. Unable to find the mysterious bookseller who gave him the book and having nothing better to do, Carlo leaves Magenta for Keshavar, where he plans to assemble a caravan and search for the treasure.
To his continual consternation, everyone in Keshavar immediately recognizes him as a foreigner, a ferenghi. When Carlo asks Keshavarians how they know he's a ferenghi, they shrug their shoulders or respond that he smells like one. To his credit, Carlo manages haphazardly to assemble a group of followers and join a caravan. Each member of Carlo's party joins for a different reason. Baksheesh, the lazy camel-puller who never stops complaining, wants to leave town because of some misunderstandings. Shira, the only female in the group, wants to return to her home, a caravanserai from which she was kidnapped and almost sold into slavery. She also wants to kill Charkosh, a slave trader who killed her father and tried to sell her. Salamon, a former student, finds almost everything interesting and often has something wise to say. He is on a journey to the sea. If you are familiar with Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain, it is tempting to see parallels between the characters, such as Carlo to Taran, Shira to Eilonwy, Baksheesh to Gurgi and Doli. The magical elements in this tale appear as stories, dreams, and paintings that suggest the future. Carlo and his followers meet many strange people on their journey. Ultimately, they all find a treasure of sorts but it is not what they were looking for when they began the journey.