I read the Chronicles of Narnia for the first time this year at the age of 23. It’s not that my parents ever kept them from me, I just never had any desire to read them when I was younger, even after the movies came out. I’ll be reviewing them in chronological order rather than publication order, as that is the order that I read them in.
The Magician’s Nephew: 3.5 stars
Part of me is glad that I waited because I caught all of the Biblical references throughout the book, especially once we got into Narnia and the garden. Part of me wishes I had read it in my childhood because I feel like I would have been able to relate to the characters of Digory and Polly more. I did enjoy the two main characters, but I felt disconnected from their experiences. I also wanted to punch Uncle Andrew in the face the majority of the time that he was there because he was just too creepy and, if you pardon my language, a genuine asshole to those poor kids. And I couldn’t help but picture Tilda Swinton as the Witch, but that was perfectly fine with me because Tilda Swinton can do no wrong.
The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe: 4 stars
I was rather impressed with how faithful the movie adaptation was, but that also made my reading a little bit boring. I also felt like the ending of the book was rather abrupt. I realize that the book is meant for young children, but I would have rather liked having the battle shown a bit more instead of just reading that it happened. I absolutely cannot stand Edmund as a character, but I cannot help but love Lucy and enjoy Peter and Susan. They are all young characters, but the amount that they grow up (even Edmund) is astounding in such a short amount of time. If the ending of the book had been expanded on just a little bit and showed instead of told, I would have easily rated this 5 stars.
The Horse and His Boy: 2.5 stars
I did enjoy this book, but I also felt like it was just kind of thrown in there given the reading order that I am using. I have a bind-up of all seven novels, and this one came after The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and before Prince Caspian. I would have liked to see Lucy, Susan, Peter, and Edmund ruling a little bit more before having them thrown in as established rulers. Plus, it would have been nice to see their relationship with King Lune.
My biggest complaint, however, is just how racist the book is. Lewis’ descriptions of the people of Calormen is just ridiculous. He portrays them as being basically barbarians who walk around with turbans and think that they are owed whatever they desire. It is clear that his influence for them were people in the Middle East, which makes it even more upsetting. It is especially apparent when you consider that the people of Narnia are described as being fair-haired and fair-skinned and beautiful.
I loved the character of Shasta and his relationship with Bree, Aravis, and Hwin.
It was definitely my least favorite of the series so far, and it would have been interesting to see if I had read it in a different place within the series. However, I think the racism still would have made me mark the book low.
Prince Caspian: 3 stars
For a book named Prince Caspian, there is very little of the character in it. Heck, he didn’t even fight for his throne, Peter did. I don’t mind that Peter, Edmund, Lucy, and Susan are seemingly the main characters per se, but they got on my nerves a lot in this book, especially Susan. It felt like a recycled plot point that Lucy sees things that the others don’t and they don’t listen to her. Also, the book just felt kind of boring. I wanted a little bit more to happen with regards to action. I personally didn’t understand the introduction of Bacchus, and was quite lost during those parts, but that could just be me.
As with the previous books, I wish Lewis would have spent more time showing the children ruling rather than just telling about how they were these great Kings and Queens. At least the fight between Peter and Miraz was given a little bit more detail in this one.
Overall, this book was just okay and I think I may actually prefer the movie in this rare instance.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: 3.5 stars
I missed Peter and Susan for sure and really really don’t like Eustace. I found the story rather boring and just did not enjoy it as much as some of the other Narnia books. It was fun to see Caspian again and in the role of King. However, that made me wish, again, that we saw Peter, Lucy, Susan, and Edmund rule as they were supposedly great rulers (I have a feeling I’m going to mention this in every of my reviews – I just really want to see it!). I love Reepicheep and even the scene where Eustace was a dragon was fun. However, he’s just a little shit and I really can’t stand him, which means I am not really looking forward to reading The Silver Chair. And the ending just really rubbed me the wrong way for some reason. I knew that there were Christian metaphors, but it was really shoved down the readers’ throats that Aslan is Christ and that you need to love him. I don’t know, it just wasn’t my favorite thing.
The Silver Chair: 3 stars
This is a perfectly okay book. I personally did not like or dislike Jill, Eustace, and Puddleglum, nor did I care much about their adventures. However, it was interesting to see the Witch come back into play. I definitely missed Lucy, Edmund, Peter, and Susan.
The Final Battle: 2 stars
This book started off promising – I even enjoyed Jill and Eustace and their adventures with King Tirian. However, how the book ended was not my favorite. I obviously knew that the series was ending, and I had a feeling that Narnia was ending, but I did not expect for Lucy, Peter, and Edmund to die and go to Heaven. I also thought that it was unnecessary to have Susan be ridiculed for no longer believing – in her defense, it would most likely seem like a dream or a game that they used to play. I just felt like the ‘you must believe or else you will never go to Heaven’ bit came off a little too strongly for me. Also, was it punishment for her that her family was killed and she was not? Was that some sick and twisted way to try to get her to believe again? I don’t know and I frankly don’t like that I don’t know. Lewis’ racism was again prevalent and it was also clear that he was very anti-anything but Christianity with the whole ‘invasion of Narnia by ‘darkie’ outsiders’ thing. The more I think about this book, the more I find myself truly disliking how it handled the concepts of race and religion.
Overall series rating: 3.07 stars
My general feeling during the entire read of the series was that I kind of wish I had read them when I was younger because reading them now as an adult with the ability to pick up on certain themes really hindered my enjoyment of them (especially the racism). I also constantly found myself frustrated that we were told about events and not shown them (especially the children ruling!). If I have children who want to read these books, I will most definitely let them, but I have a feeling that I’m going to want to talk to them about the books afterwards about what they thought about the books.