I am thrilled to be publishing my review of The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. I’ve been thinking a lot about this review and how to synthesize a series that means so much to me and many other people. These books can be many things from simply enjoyable to life changing. They can inspire us to read more fantasy, more by C. S. Lewis or perhaps more religious works.
I decided to share my review more in the style of my Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings reviews where I assume that my readers have some experience already with Narnia and are familiar with the basics of the stories. These three series represent much of my childhood and beginning love for reading. So forgive me if I wax a bit overly poetic in my discussion of this favorite.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis showcase the entire history of the magical land of Narnia and the several children from our world that helped shape it’s destiny. According to Goodreads, “Journeys to the end of the world, fantastic creatures, and epic battles between good and evil—what more could any reader ask for in one book? . . . . For the past fifty years, The Chronicles of Narnia have transcended the fantasy genre to become part of the canon of classic literature. Each of the seven books is a masterpiece, drawing the reader into a land where magic meets reality, and the result is a fictional world whose scope has fascinated generations.”
This series really is one story with seven parts.
These books are not meant to be read alone. Each story is so connected to the others. I found that it was impossible to separate them as the whole is definitely greater that the sum of the parts. It was fantastic to read them all within about 6 weeks of each other because I had all the details bouncing around my head as I read. Like The Lord of the Rings, this series’ power and poignancy comes in the collection of all the stories together.
- Edmund has always been one of my favorite Narnian characters. I love his transformation through the series and the wisdom and loyalty he exudes.
- Lucy is impossible not to like. Her faith, innocence, and courage are just lovely. And I admire her ability to always see Aslan and her deep love for Narnia.
- Caspian goes on a beautiful journey as well through the series from unsure leader to sea faring King. I loved getting to know him better in several books and seeing the ways he changed Narnia for the better despite setbacks.
- Eustace was a fun character to see develop in Narnia. I felt a range of emotions in reaction to him but I love where he ends–with a determination to fight for Narnia despite his fears.
- I loved the combination of Shasta/Cor and Corin because they are such different characters yet were both likable. Shasta is a favorite of mine because he has courage to do good despite never learning the importance of courage.
- Digory reminds me quite a bit of Edmund. He makes a nearly fatal mistake but learns from it and is able to be better, wiser for it. I love that we get to see him later in the series and see that he stays true to Narnia.
- There are so many great Narnians to love! Puddleglum is such a fun character! Everything he says is so great. I laughed out loud several times at his dismal outlook on the world. But when all looks lost, I want this Marshwiggle by my side! Tumnus is the first Narnian we are introduced to and I love him from the moment he decides to be Lucy’s friend instead of her enemy. I also enjoyed Trufflehunter, Trumpkin (the DLF!), the Beavers, and Reepicheep who is potentially the only mouse I would truly like to meet. He is just a fantastic character from his intense loyalty and courage to his desires to see Aslan’s country. I also loved Puzzle because he is so kind and wants to good. Although his naivete is frustrating at times.
A Few Thoughts on Aslan:
- Aslan deserves a separate place in my review because he is my favorite character in ways no other could be. Naturally, he is a Christ figure in the series, and I was in awe of his creation, sacrifice, and judgment. I hope that when I see his face, I will feel the peace and strength that Lucy feels.
- I found it fascinating to see how Aslan appears in each novel in the series. In LWW, he appears to everyone and everyone believes in him. In PC, it takes time for everyone to see him–only if they believe. In VDT, only a select few see Aslan. In SC, only Jill and Eustace seem to see him. In H&B, Shasta sees him several times but does not always realize it is Aslan. In MN, all see Aslan but react to him in varying ways. And finally in LB, Aslan’s identity is questioned although everyone has the opportunity to know him–but some choose not to.
- The end of the series shows the potential to corrupt Aslan’s identity. We have some serious problems in the land of Narnia with the fake Aslan and combining of Aslan and the Calmoren God, Tash, into Tashlan. Some simply don’t believe in him at all. There are a lot of evil decisions and surprising betrayals. Hope seems lost several times. It’s fascinating to see the complexities in the land of Narnia and the way creatures and people view Aslan at the end of the world.
- Aslan’s Country is intriguing and mysterious throughout the series. We get a glimpse of the mountains in VDT, Jill and Eustace travel to and from Narnia via Aslan’s Country in SC, and LD takes us into the heart of it. I loved the allegorical elements present there–rebirth, freedom from pain and suffering, and an understanding of Aslan himself.
Favorite Scenes from each book:
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: The First Christmas, Dinner at the Beavers, The end when Aslan defeats the White Witch. Also Turkish delight and tea at Tumnus’ cave.
- Prince Caspian: I enjoyed the battle sequence and the way Aslan wakes up the trees and takes back Narnia.
- Dawn Treader: The last part of the journey to the edge of the world, Overcoming the darkness island, Lucy and the magician, Eustace the dragon
- Silver Chair: Escaping the giants,Leaving the underworld, Puddleglum’s heroics with the fire
- Horse and his Boy: The whole story is fantastic. Shasta running to warn Archenland and meeting Aslan, Shasta and Corin switch places, Aslan at the victory feast
- The Magician’s Nephew: The creation of Narnia ( a beautiful sequence showcasing Aslan’s power and goodness), the wood between worlds, and the creation of the lamp post
- Last Battle: Inside the stable and introduction into Aslan’s country
What We Can Learn from Narnia:
- I love the simplicity of this story and the truth that is layered throughout.
- Good will ultimately triumph over evil. This doesn’t mean that evil has no power or will not destroy anything of importance. For example, Queen Jadis is able to trap Narnia in eternal winter for 100 years. But she never understands the deep magic. Aslan defeats her by his sacrifice. Or when Shift creates a fake Aslan that leads Narnians astray, he is ultimately defeated (and eaten). While there are sacrifices made, all is right in the end.
- Power of Darkness. I was surprised the dark and almost depressing moments in the series. Rilian’s captivity shows the power that evil and darkness can attain and the loss that cannot be fully made right in this life. The betrayals of the dwarves in the final book are particularly dark as well.
- Importance of strong personal belief. Throughout the series, we encounter characters with varying levels of faith.We have those who believe in goodness in Aslan, those who are seduced by dark magic, and those who are figuring out their beliefs somewhere in the middle. I love the focus on faith and loyalty. And I wonder how is my faith?
- The Christian allegorical elements. There are so many beautiful allegorical elements that add to the overall story. The beauty of Narnia is that you can read it as simply a great story or choose to see the deeper meanings throughout. Some favorite allegorical elements:
- Aslan’s country and rebirth, overcoming darkness with light, Aslan’s sacrifice on the Stone Table, the great door of judgment, “further up and further in,” Aslan himself as the Lion and the lamb
Tips for reading The Chronicles of Narnia:
- Read the full series in a short time! This allows the individual books to become one story in your mind. Plus, they are surprisingly short so it’s doable.
- Read at least one novel out loud to someone else. These are great novels to share with your kids, your siblings, your friends, your parents–anyone! And I think they are even more magical read out loud.
- Only watch the movie adaptation for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Don’t waste your time ruining characters with the others. You’re welcome.
- Read the books in publication order, not chronological order. Why did we mess up Lewis’ original order? This was the first time I’ve read them in their publication order and I loved it! We get a new perspective on Narnia through the Pevensies’ eyes then see how Narnia was created and ended. This order focuses the on the connection between our world and Narnia.
The Narnia books are classics and favorites of mine for so many reasons. These books teach us the importance of faith, courage, strength and sacrifice. They are timeless for any reader young or old.
What do you love about Narnia?
Do you prefer publication order or chronological order?