S-BOMB warning. That’s SPOILER-ALERT, for those less crude than I.
Now, truthbomb, I’m technically reading from The Complete Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, but I’m reviewing the books individually as I read them. The reason I’m reading a complete edition is because this particular thick book is very special to me. I own each story separately, but I managed to get the hardcover edition of the complete set with all the original art that I grew up loving for a $1 on a gift card (in particular, this gift card came from Kelly Baker for helping her with her first novel, so it was all-around special).
Now, these reviews may be on the lighter side, but that’s mostly because I believe in the magic of these books. They’re touted as a great Christian tale, but I’m not religious, so what I can say is this is the series that made me believe in magic and goodness for the sake of being good. The books are arranged in chronological order, according to time in Narnia, so while The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe was written first, The Magician’s Nephew is catalogued as book one. As such, we do not yet meet the Pevensies, the Golden Age’s kings and queens, but rather, Digory Kirke and Polly Plummer.
Digory’s primary motivation behind most of his actions is his mother’s health (she is dying of cancer, from what I can tell). Polly’s is mostly to experience adventure and not to abandon Digory in his rum poor situation as the story progresses. It is a friendship that lasts, as you find out at the end of the series. Their actions weigh heavily on the fate of Narnia. Digory’s poor behavior leads to Jadis, Queen of Charn (the infamous White Witch), being unleashed upon Narnia at its very birth. This ties into important events throughout the series.
Personally, I find the introduction works beautifully, knowing that this was not truly the first book. It’s a visually stunning book, the word choice guiding one along from London attics to the desolate Charn to the first sunrise of Narnia. It’s a great start to the magic of the series, and lays the foundations for most of the themes that appear in the other books. Visually-speaking, if I were to option any of the books for an immediate movie or other visual representation, I’d go with this one. To hear the great song of Aslan as the stars appear, singing in the sky, to the boiling earth erupting with animals, to the secret garden atop the hill far to the west… I just think this one would be stunning.
It’s worth mentioning that C. S. Lewis utilizes a specific technique, where he does not specifically and strictly write out the details to scenes, characters, and the like. He sort of gives a general blueprint and allows the reader to fill in the gaps, which is amazing for a children’s book. It especially allows children to create their own Narnia, to become the main characters, and to live in that world, an impressive and useful thing when encouraging one to use their imagination. As with the Narnian tales, it’s not all pristine and beautifully perfect in the end. Digory’s mother is saved, Uncle Andrew the deviant magician becomes nicer for the rest of his years, and the wardrobe the Pevensies use to get to Narnia is built, but Jadis is free in the northern countries, fated to return to Narnia and attack… when, as Aslan said, it will be sons of Adam and daughters of Eve to protect Narnia, as it was they who first brought evil to this new world.
Honestly, this book leaves me with just one story I wished was written–what happened to the silver apple tree Digory planted to shield Narnia from the witch? As long as it stands, she will not approach Narnia, but it eventually is gone. There is never again mention of it, which leads me to believe the people of Narnia eventually forgot to care for the tree, forgot of its protection. The passage of time and what it does to traditions, histories, and beliefs is often visited in this series. But boy do I wish there was a short story detailing the fall of that great tree.
Interested in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician’s Nephew? It can be purchased here.