June Wrap Up 2015: Chronicles of Narnia

So, June was my first full month off after wrapping up my first year as a grad student. Needless to say, I sat around and read a lot. A lot. 26 books, a lot. Many of the things I read were either on my iPad or via audiobook, but I also read six books from my physical TBR pile, as well as a couple library books. Because I read so much, I’m going to split up my wrap up posts. This post is going to focus on the Chronicles of Narnia, because I read most of the books in June on audio.

I’m part of a tiny book club with a friend back in my hometown, and for June we decided to read the entire Chronicles of Narnia series. I’d only read The Magician’s Nephew and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe as a child, and I remember enjoying them, so I thought this would be fine, especially because they’re relatively short books. What I could not have foreseen, though, is how utterly bored I would be with the series. Seriously. Most of the them turned out to be not my cup of tea, to say the least. (I do swear at moments in some of these reviews. You’ve been warned.)

I did listen to The Magician’s Nephew in May, so for June I listened to books 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7. (I borrowed 6 from the library, because I needed an audiobook break.)

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by: C.S. Lewis 

This book introduces Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy to Narnia. As I’m sure most of you know, Lucy finds an entrance into Narnia through a wardrobe. From there, they discover that a witch has basically taken over Narnia, and they have to help Aslan (Jesus) defeat her. The book is fine. It’s relatively light and easy going, but it’s the start of the absurdness that is the Christian allegory of this series, which rubbed me the wrong way now that I’m older (and only got worse as the series progressed). I gave it three stars.

The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis 

This book tells the story of a boy (Cor) and his horse (Bree) and how they run away to Narnia and run into a slave girl (can’t remember her name) and her horse and there’s a battle eventually. This book bored the hell out of me, so the details didn’t stick at all, if I’m being honest. The characters were boring, the plot was boring, and it was pretty racist. This book didn’t need to be written. It brings nothing to the actual structure of the Chronicles of Narnia (a structure, I would argue, that doesn’t really even exist). I gave it two stars.

Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis

This book half tells the ‘origin’ story to Prince Caspian uncovering who he is, and it half tells how Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy end up back in Narnia. Time has, naturally, progressed much faster in Narnia, so it’s been like thousands of years since they’ve been there. They meet Caspian. There’s a battle. They make him king, even though they’re still the ‘high’ kings and queens. I enjoyed the first half of this story, but I would have preferred it if Lewis had intertwined the two narratives. It felt clunky to have half of Caspian’s story and then abruptly transition to the Pevensie siblings. The plot was also really boring. I gave it two stars.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

This book is the Gulliver’s Travels of the Narnia series. Edmund, Lucy, and their cousin Eustache end up in Narnia and go traveling to a bunch of different islands with Caspian. I enjoyed this book a lot more than I had the previous two, though I absolutely hated the mouse character–which may have had something to do with the fact that I absolutely hated the voice the narrator gave him. The book kind of had no plot though? I guess it worked out as just an adventure type book, but it didn’t really further any type of plot for the (diminishing) main story arc of the Chronicles. If there is one. I have my doubts. And for some reason the Pevensie siblings learn that they’re ”too old” to go to Narnia any more, even though they grew up in Narnia as kings and queens in the second book?? Didn’t understand this random rule that Lewis decided to give the series. I gave it three stars.

The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis (read physically)

This book involves Eustache (from the previous novel) and his ‘friend’ Jill who end up in Narnia to try and find a lost prince who has been enchanted by the ‘green’ witch and brought to this Underworld type setting. It was okay? It had a solid, linear plot, so that was refreshing. It also had a solid ‘bad guy,’ even though we get to see her for all of two seconds and then she’s killed. Which was stupid. I would have liked more time getting to know who she is and if she’s related to the white witch from the second book. I gave this book three stars.

The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis 

Spoiler alert: I hated this book. I don’t think there was a single thing I liked. It was a terrible, cliche ending. (That goddamn ending, though. I called it halfway through and spent the rest of the time angry, because I knew I was right, and it was stupid.) The allegory is STRONG in this one, which annoyed the hell out of me. Basically, everyone shows up in Narnia (included the aforementioned banned Pevensie siblings–except Susan, because she’s showing interest in boys and makeup. God forbid. Literally) and there’s a battle between (I think?) the same/similar racist-ly described enemies from The Horse and His Boy and then Aslan (God/Jesus/Holy Spirit) comes floods all of Narnia, to rid it of its sinners apparently, but everyone who is good gets to go to ‘the real Narnia’–aka heaven. Except Susan. Susan is fucked. Don’t read this book. I gave it one star, but only because I can’t give it zero stars.

Overall Thoughts:

Not a good series. Unlike a well developed series (like Harry Potter) there isn’t an overarching theme or plot to these novels, so they just feel disjointed. There’s next to no character development. Eustache is the only character that believably changes. Jill changes, but unrealistically so. She leaves Narnia in the sixth book (pretty determined to get home and not come back), but then she comes into the seventh one this great warrior and fighter? Sure. Why not. And like I said, the allegory is too much for me. The books are underdeveloped, poorly thought out, and have characters I don’t care about. Except Susan. Poor Susan.

Overall, I’d give the series like two stars.

This post is a downer. I’m sorry. I did read some really amazing things this month, so I promise the next wrap up segment will be a lot happier!

Until next time, happy reading!

–E. Adeline

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