a new king rises…

S-BOMB warning. That’s SPOILER-ALERT, for those less crude than I.

It’s been a hot minute since I last updated or reviewed what I’ve read this year (or read in general), so let’s jump right into it with a review of the next Narnian tale, Prince Caspian.

Let’s open up with the first point: this is another book that does not only focus on the famous Pevensie children, but it does open up with them and they do feature prominently in it. They’re preparing to go to school for the semester (for Lucy, her first year in a higher education group–aka, the kids are getting older!), when they start feeling varying degrees of discomfort, as if they’re pinching one another. Next thing they know, they’re in a strange land once more, and they rejoice. After much exploration and concerns for how to survive while they’re there, they realize they’re actually in the ruins of Cair Paravel, their old castle in the wonderful land of Narnia. A lot of time has passed. All the friends we learned to love alongside them are long gone.

For a lot of fans, this seems to be a disappointing shock and a point against the book, but I enjoyed it fairly well. I mean, I miss Mr. Tumnus and the like, but hey, new people to love. One of which is the dwarf Trumpkin. He basically functions as the Pevensies’ liaison into this new, overthrown Narnia, filling them in on how it came to be this way. They help Prince Caspian deal with the unjust King Miraz, his uncle, reunite with Aslan, reinstating the beautiful world of Narnia for the Talking Beasts that have been in hiding for ages. These are, after all, children’s books, and they have appropriate happy endings. Young Prince Caspian loves the Talking Beasts and the “old ways” of Narnia despite being a Telmarine descendant, it’s realized that the Telmarines are still Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve that originate from our world–thus the ones that do not want to live under this new way of life are allowed to return to it. Happy times are ahead, though they will take work to reach.

But there’s a greater lesson to be told here. The two older Pevensies, Peter and Susan, can no longer return to Narnia–they are officially too old. Edmund and Lucy are left out of this decree, which all the children understand well enough. Those two shall return another time. What does this mean to the reader, though? As a child, this bothered me more than the loss of old friends. The idea that I would, one day, no longer be able to return to the land of my dreams. That the very acting of growing up meant something loathsome. Eventually, my personal conclusion on this issue was that I never had to grow up if I kept reading.

Occasionally, I forget. I’m not the best about reading, not these days. I feel this weighted obligation towards writing, that I’m not allowed to read so long as I have something I’m supposed to be writing. And that obligation will suddenly spark in my mind that I’ve become that adult that can’t return, and suddenly I long for magic and adventures, and next thing I know I’m back in Narnia during its Golden Age, revisiting old friends. Eventually, the series goes full-circle in teaching me about the return trip. But that is not this book. In a way, this note means I leave the book with a sour feeling, but only for a moment.

Interested in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian? It can be purchased here.

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Ah, the Golden Age…

S-BOMB warning. That’s SPOILER-ALERT, for those less crude than I.

The Horse and His Boy is a peculiar Narnian tale, for one important reason: it is the only one that takes place during Narnia’s “Golden Age”, that mythological time during the four Pevensies’ reign. It is also one of only two tales to focus more-so on a native of the region (Shasta/Cor in The Horse and His Boy and King Tirian in The Last Battle) versus a son of Adam or daughter of Eve. The tale instead follows Shasta and Bree, Aravis and Hwin, an orphan, a Tarkheena, and two Talking Horses of Narnia attempting to escape Calormen for the wonderful land of Narnia.

Needless to say, it’s not a simple adventure. Along the way, the Talking Horses have to disguise themselves as poor slavehorses in the city, Shasta gets confused for Archenland royalty, and they all stumble on a plot by the Tisroc’s son Rabadash to forcefully wed Queen Susan and conquer Narnia and Archenland.

The story follows Shasta almost exclusively, though there is a moment or two where C. S. Lewis takes a step back to show us Aravis and the Talking Horses’ perspective when necessary. Aslan is woven into this tale a bit differently than before, in that he appears many times, but does not make this known until events are coming to an end. After all, Shasta and Aravis are not Narnians and had not known of or believed in Aslan prior. He spurs them onwards in haste so that they may warn the King Lune of Archenland in time, he protects Shasta from the lonely night amongst the tombs. He even exacts even pain upon Aravis so that she may understand what pain she caused her slave for involving her in her escape so selfishly. (But, of course, we do not know of anything else happening to this slave girl, for we are not to know anyone’s story but our own.)

What I particularly loved about this story was the fact that we got to see the Narnians from the “outside”. Their procession in Tashbaan was a lovely contrast to the rest of the city, and beloved characters were involved, so what’s not to love? Edmund has always been my favorite, and he is dominant in both sections of the story that features the Narnians. It’s the only time in the breadth of these stories that we see him acting as an experienced king, and it always makes me smile (even when he goes and beheads an enemy! He was never particularly shy about battle, was he?). There’s two things I sorely wish were written by C. S. Lewis, the first being the story of the day the enchanted tree protecting Narnia from Jadis died, and the second being a longer glimpse into Narnian lifestyle during the Golden Age. I’ve always been fascinated by it.

Despite its peculiarities compared to other tales, The Horse and His Boy is just as good as the rest and deserves its place in the chronicles. As a follow-up to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I think it handles the task beautifully. We experience a longing for a magical, peaceful land when we visit these tales, and that’s precisely what Shasta is going through, so it’s easy to slip this on like a glove and enjoy the ride.

Interested in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe? It can be purchased here.

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It began with a wood…

S-BOMB warning. That’s SPOILER-ALERT, for those less crude than I.

Now, there’s an interesting aspect to reading The Chronicles of Narnia. Do you read via publication order, or chronological order? Personally, I was too young to have known there was a difference when I first read the series, so I continue to read by chronological. That makes The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe book two, in my world. And boy, is it magical.

This particular journey is very special to me. I still have no clear memory of the first time I read it. What I do remember is this old, freaky-looking production VHS of it that was two parts long. The freakiest part of it for me was introduced at the very end of tape one, Maugrim the wolf! His makeup was the first time I’d see a human dressed as an animal (that I’m able to remember). I watched this VHS at my grandmother’s every time I visited. As far as I’m concerned, this was the first time I believed in magic. At some point, someone had the book and I read it. I didn’t personally own a copy of it until about 2001. I’m pretty sure I picked it up when my aunt began this magical tradition of taking me out on Tuesdays to Barnes and Noble for a book and a coffee/hot chocolate. Many things started with that. I started regularly visiting book stores, more frequently drinking coffee, and had a return to the magic of reading that I’d lost for a couple of years. Tuesdays have since become my favorite of days.

But, to the novel! It’s a story about magic, faith, and doing what’s right, brought to the reader via talking animals and new worlds. If you’ve read The Magician’s Nephew, then you are familiar with the country of Narnia itself, as well as Professor Kirk. The Pevensies are introduced here (though not as the Pevensies, but rather, their first names–Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy), and they are arguably the most important of all the children of Adam and Eve that visit Narnia. Peter may be the high king above all kings, but Lucy is easily argued to be Aslan’s favorite. Who is Aslan? Not a tame lion, to be sure. For religious readers, he is allegorical Jesus, but for others, he is enjoyable without this connection. He is a symbol of all that is good about Narnia, and his struggle against the White Witch is aided by the Pevensies, who must reclaim Narnia for the Talking Beasts.

My absolute favorite of Narnia is Edmund Pevensie. He has the most growth of the four English children, and I probably identified with the concept of being rotten for rotten’s sake, and what he did to overcome this behavior. Without him, one could argue that the battle would have been lost, because only he had the sense to strike Jadis’ wand, shattering it. One could also argue that Aslan would have defeated the enemy anyway, but he does not ever do anything of great significance without it being an act of aid of those who place their faith in him and act on their own in his name.

This was the original tale of Narnia, and it is very much its own story and feels very complete. Other tales include a sort of aside that alludes to another tale, or at least, the potential of one. If I’m not mistaken, this story is also mentioned in some small way (and in some cases, in some not-so-small) in every other book. It is the story of Narnia, of the start of the Golden Age. Its citizens are quite fond of this battle, of the Pevensies. You can’t help but feel the same. Narnia was won here, as was my heart.

If you wish to stir an imagination to life, a love of reading, and perhaps even goodness for the sake of being good, I say The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the place to start. It’s not a particularly modern tale, but it is an everlasting one. The artwork, should you choose a publication that features it, is gorgeous and encourages the imagination to flourish. I cannot recommend this story enough. Even if you never read the other books in the series, this is certainly the one.

Interested in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe? It can be purchased here.