Author: C S Lewis
Rating: 3 Stars
Dates read: 09 Apr 19 – 12 Apr 19
Publication date: 15 Sep 1952
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre(s): Children’s, Classic, Fantasy
NARNIA…where owls are wise, where some of the giants like to snack on humans, where a prince is put under an evil spell…and where the adventure begins.
Eustace and Jill escape from the bullies at school through a strange door in the wall, which, for once, is unlocked. It leads to the open moor…or does it? Once again Aslan has a task for the children, and Narnia needs them. Through dangers untold and caverns deep and dark, they pursue the quest that brings them face to face with the evil Witch. She must be defeated if Prince Rillian is to be saved.
The rich of fantastical world was back in this novel with yet another new character enters the world of Narnia. This is the first book that features characters from our world, but where the Pevensie siblings are completely absent from the story. I really quite like that in the space of a story arc, Eustace has gone from being a novice adventurer, Narnia virgin, and quite horrible person, into Jill’s guide through Narnia and the fantastical world within.
I found the opening to the story really quite interesting. Jill and Eustace are being bullied and Eustace guides Jill through a door into the world of Narnia. This idea was quite cool in my eyes. So many use the world of books and literature as an escape from the difficulties of really life and here was two characters using this kind of escape within the story. This, however, was quickly interrupted by the instant introduction of Aslan and his message for them. It was a different approach to the story, the idea that they entered and had to complete a mission for Aslan, but having it at the outset meant the characters were thinking back to this interaction and this message throughout the story.
Once the story actually began, I quite enjoyed the more adventurous narrative than found in the earlier stories. Tasked with locating Prince Rillian, the missing son of the now old King Caspian, the pair look for signs that show they’re on the right path to solve their quest. They are housed and meet different characters/encounter different places that have appeared in the older stories (such as Cair Paravel) which was a great nod to the best points within the old stories, but each of these places have obviously changed and aged, and it is this that provides a different edge to this story.
Jill and Eustace are introduced to some characters and races within Narnia that, thus far, have not been mentioned or utilised within the stories. Puddleglum the marsh wiggle is hilariously pessimistic about everything and was always good for light relief in the form of some overly negative and gloomy view point and outlook. He acts as their guide to the home of the Giants and the underground world of Lady of the Green Kirtle. I like that even though they’re following signs and following a very specific quest, they are openminded and attempt to embrace the people and the traditions of their hosts. Yes, this means they nearly become the main portion of a giant’s feast, and yes, they are kidnapped and brainwashed by the Lady who rules the Underland’s, but it feels more true to the idea of exploring a fantastical land and finding more about yourself.
It’s not a spoiler to say that the man held captive in this underland is Rillian, and that they save him by overthrowing the Lady’s mind control, and manage to reunite him with his father in time for them to enjoy each other’s company and for him to be there for his father’s dying moments and be crowned King. (If this is a spoiler, the book has been around for half a century, sorry not sorry). It is here where the book take san abrupt and about turn into religious allegory that is like a sledgehammer to the gut. The point of the land they entered in and met Aslan, and ultimately leave back to their own world through is an obvious representation of heaven and I felt like was unnecessary. I understand Lewis’s’ religious views are a crucial part of his writing, but this is quite incongruous with the rest for the story and bookended a great explorative narrative with painfully obvious religious sentiment that didn’t seem to quite fit with the rest of the book.
Outside of the heavenly bookends that distracted me from a pretty cool story, this penultimate story within the Narnia world’s once again felt quite different from what came before. It harked back to points and places of old in an enjoyable way that almost thanked the reader for sticking round and appreciating the full narrative across the books and not just within the individual narratives, and overall, it probably is my second favourite in the series.