Book Review: THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, by C.S. Lewis

The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe

If I were to give out an award for "Most Re-read Series in My Book Collection," it would, without a doubt, go to to The Chronicles of Narnia. Unlike Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings (which I'm currently re-reading again), Narnia does not demand that you hand over a significant portion of your life in order to read the series start to finish--it does not, in fact, even ask that you read them start to finish, and this is part of the series' appeal. You can pick up one little hundred-page children's book whenever you feel like a dose of Narnian folklore--you can read that one book, and then put it down. You do not have to go on to book two, or four, or seven.

That is what I did just now. After reading a many-paged literary thriller (Possession, by A.S. Byatt), partially set in Victorian England, I was ready for a good, solid, quick dose of swashbuckling adventure--and this is exactly what The Chronicles of Narnia specialize in. Brevity, and swashbuckling.

THE LION, THE WITCH & THE WARDROBE, first in the series (though Book 6, The Magician's Nephew, is a prequel to LION--if you're about chronology, you might read that one first), is the one that everybody knows about and has read, or had read to them, at least once, long ago. It is also the one that the movie (the movie, to be released on Dec. 9--not that I'm counting) is based on, the one with the mean White Witch, and the great lion, Aslan, and giants and quirky professors and fauns and magical wardrobes and little English children running around saying things like "Sharp's the word," and "Jolly good."

Brevity, swashbuckling. Upcoming movie. You really should have read this one already.

Prince Caspian

PRINCE CASPIAN, the swashbuckling second book (or fourth, depending on how old your edition is) of The Chronicles of Narnia, features usurping uncles, a rightful king, a fresh breath or two of the Narnian air, all four Pevensie children, and, you guessed it, talking animals. If you're reading this one, you probably already read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, so there's no sense in me going on and on about it.

I don't know that I've heard CASPIAN called anybody's favorite chronicle (most people seem to weigh in with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which I agree with heartily, though I'm also partial to The Magician's Nephew, and rather intrigued by The Last Battle), but that doesn't mean you should skip it--heavens, no! You should skip not a single Chronicle. PRINCE CASPIAN is chockfull of Narnian battle tactics, plus it's the last time you see all four Pevensie kids being Narnian royalty together.

(Quick: how many times have I said the word "swashbuckling" in regards to The Chronicles of Narnia? I think I'm about to stop, though. I'll come up with some other really good silly word.)

The Horse & His Boy

Long ago when I actually paid Blogdrive to host my site, they let me have all kinds of fun polls and things, and so I posted a poll asking all five of my readers what Narnia book was their favorite. Of the four that responded (and this includes me voting for both myself and my husband), the results were split down the center between The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and THE HORSE & HIS BOY.

Having never been a big fan of HORSE (Dawn Treader forever! Woo!), this struck me as curious. Ye who voted for THE HORSE & HIS BOY, please come forward and help me out. I want to know.

Which isn't to say that I don't like THE HORSE & HIS BOY. Oh, I do, but it just never made its way into my favorites. In fact, I'd have to say the second half of the book is awesome, but the first half didn't quite measure up. I know this isn't much of a review, but mostly I'm wondering what you, dear 5 readers, have to say.

Ready, set, COMMENT!

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

And so we arrive at my favorite Narnian chronicle. I love it for the spirit of high adventure, for the discovery of unknown islands and for the strange and beautiful things dwelling upon those islands; for the transformation of Eustace, and the brief but lovely appearances of Aslan. I love Reepicheep, the valiant Mouse, and the awe-inspiring Last Sea; I love the lilies of the Silver Sea and even the smallest glimpse of Aslan's own country.

However: I do get tired of Lucy's being singled out constantly as "a girl," and therefore being bustled out of harm's way simply because she is "a girl." I like Lucy as a character, but do get tired of the way the other characters treat her. That is my only complaint. Everything else is Lewis as his brilliant, imaginative best.

The Silver Chair

I have to say, THE SILVER CHAIR has grown on me over the years. It never was one of my favorites, given the noticable lack of Pevensies and my particular lack of affection for Jill Pole (though she does come around, as everyone in the Chronicles eventually does), but this time through I found myself absolutely loving the scenery--Aslan's Mountain, especially, and Underland as well. Lewis's description of the first is pure and joyful, if perilous, while his description of the second is eerie and memorable--the darkness and silence stuck with me even after I put the book down. Aslan's character in SILVER CHAIR is slightly more stern, which I liked (the more moods of Aslan shown, the better!), and the Marsh-wiggle is wonderful. I had forgotten just how much there is to love about this book.

The Magician's Nephew

THE MAGICIAN'S NEPHEW solidly remains one of my favorite Chronicles. The Creation of Narnia! The destruction of Charn! The Evil Empress Jadis! I love how NEPHEW ties together so much of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, while also remaining an excellent story in its own right. THE MAGICIAN'S NEPHEW introduces some of my very favorite locations--the eerie, failing land of Charn; newborn Narnia; that mysterious Garden; the Wood Between the Worlds--while also showing yet more aspects of Aslan's character. I come back to this one again and again, even sometimes skipping the other six just to reread THE MAGICIAN'S NEPHEW.


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