S-BOMB warning. That’s SPOILER-ALERT, for those less crude than I.
Welcome to Narnia’s first real seafaring adventure! The third book written in the series (after The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and Prince Caspian), this is the fifth book I’m reviewing. Why? Because so many printings have placed the books in chronological order, and that is how I’ve always read them. Pretty sure the publishers made that decision long before I was born!
This lovely venture includes Lucy and Edmund Pevensie (so, naturally, I’m always excited by this inclusion), being the first adventure after their elder siblings Peter and Susan were barred from journeying to Narnia. But, shockingly, they’re not the only ones to get into Narnia this time, swept up through a magical painting. Their ornery cousin, Eustace Scrubb, gets dragged along and is quite sour about the situation.
Eustace is a very different sort from the Pevensie children, and most people assume he is representative of how C. S. Lewis felt about the modern children of the time. This is a safe bet, but let’s discuss the particular differences. His attitude is particularly spoiled and snotty, and he’s a bit of a bully. Like Edmund, he is considered a product of his schooling. (If you don’t recall or haven’t read, Edmund is mentioned to have started taking a turn for the worse at a new school before their first adventure.)
Edmund and Lucy do not require major growth in this story. That role is given to Eustace. There’s a few minor eruptions at each island they sail to on their journey to Aslan’s country, but, outside of Eustace, there is no one doubting the authenticity of Aslan this time. And, of course, Eustace soon learns his lesson. The hard way. For me, it was a particularly fond moment when Edmund commented to him that he wasn’t the worst there was, only to imply that he himself was indeed the worst.
Edmund will always be my favorite.
In short, there’s the usual talking animals, a wonderful sea journey with slave traders, invisible beings, mer-people, dragons, and, at the close, Aslan. For what would Narnia be without Aslan? (Not a very fun place, it turns out, but more on that later.) We see the transformation of Eustace from a spoiled, bratty, indignant youth into a heroic, brave (if a little inexperienced) adventuresome lad that we, as the reader, can be quite proud of.
Sadly, as before, Aslan tells the Pevensies the sad truth: they can not return to Narnia. The pair take it surprisingly well; from what we know as the reader, they have the most history with the magical country.
Something I’ve left out but do not intend to continue to do so is the always-entertaining Reepicheep. He is the epitome of honor, if a bit fanatical in his ways. His growing friendship with Eustace is the stuff Narnia is truly made of, a different sort of strong bond than Lucy and Mr. Tumnus had, but just as good. Wholesome, loves. This stuff is wholesome.
Interested in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader? It can be purchased here.