A voyage to the end, and the beginning…

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.

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~Lils

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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~Lils

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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~Lils