The Chronicles of Narnia # 7: The Last Battle

The Last Battle by C.S. LewisThe Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
The Chronicles of Narnia # 7
Publisher: Scholastic
Number of pages: 224
My copy: paperback, bought from Scholastic Book Fair

The conclusion of the saga that began with The Magician’s Nephew.

NARNIA…where you must say good-bye…and where the adventure begin again.

The Unicorn says that humans are brought to Narnia when Narnia is stirred and upset. And Narnia is in trouble now: A false Aslan roams the land. Narnia’s only hope is that Eustace and Jill, old friends to Narnia, will be able to find the true Aslan and restore peace to the land. Their task is a difficult one because, as the Centaur says, “The stars never lie, but Men and Beasts do.” Who is the real Aslan and who is the imposter?

* * *

So right after reading The Magician’s Nephew, I jumped straight to the last book of The Chronicles of Narnia. Given the choice, I wouldn’t really have done that just yet — I tend to let the last book of any series linger a bit longer on my shelf, because I need a certain mindset before I say goodbye to any series I have loved, or at least, invested in. But I was on a little time pressure here — I was determined to read this book for Holy Week, and it just so happened that my reading The Last Battle was also on Good Friday.

Perfect timing, you think?

In The Last Battle, there is trouble in Narnia. As a reader, I was immediately introduced to this trouble, and I already know that the Aslan parading around Narnia is false one. I think C.S. Lewis did that on purpose instead of putting the readers in a state of the unknown like the other Narnians. For the first time since reading the series, I was really and truly scared for Narnia. How could they believe that this Aslan is the real one they know? How can they believe that so easily? How can they lose all that hope so easily, too? With all this trouble, Eustace and Jill came tumbling down Narnia, to help out and save them — but the question is, do they even want to be saved?

Like I said, it was the first time I was truly scared for the things happening in Narnia. I don’t know if this is investment in the series, or I was just…well, scared. Aslan is hands down one of my favorite characters, and possibly one of my favorite representations of God in literature, so seeing someone parade as a false one is scary. But in a way I can’t blame the people for acting that way. I’m not saying it’s right, but it just wasn’t surprising. Aslan being gone for a long time and with only his believers passing the belief down from generation to generation is bound to make some people question him at some point. I can’t help but think of how it is here in the real world — how people can just believe anyone and anything, and how, when disappointed by that, can make them not believe the one who should be believed in in the first place. It’s a messy, messy, thing. The Last Battle reminds me a bit of Prince Caspian, where the characters’ faith in Aslan was challenged so much that it was almost too late before they finally realized that they were wrong.

The Last Battle has a darker tone compared to the other books, and perhaps it also has the most bloodshed too. There were a bit too many battle scenes in this book that I can hardly think that this is a book for kids anymore. Reading The Magician’s Nephew before this was a good idea, I think, because there were a lot of details mentioned there that was mentioned in this book. The final scenes were a bit confusing but I liked how they brought all the characters back together.

I wasn’t planning to mention Susan in this review, but I guess I kind of have to. I think the Susan aspect is what makes The Last Battle a little dated. I mean, I understand what C.S. Lewis meant about it, and I guess it just so happened that Susan is that character who didn’t go the way the others chose to. It might not sit comfortably with other people, though, especially with how it was explained. I think readers should be careful to remember the time when this book was written to put the Susan thing in the proper context.

Nevertheless, I think The Last Battle was a pretty good ending for a beloved series, even if it is one that can spur new questions, not about the book but about what the author intends for it to represent in real life. If anything, I think The Last Battle is the Narnia book that dealt the most about faith and its nature, and how it is really a matter of choosing to stand up for what you believe and for who you believe in, even if everyone and everything else around you is saying otherwise.

So long, Narnia. It’s been a wonderful ride. One thing is for sure — wherever I go live in the future, there will always, always be a copy of the seven books of The Chronicles of Narnia. :)

But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at least they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

Rating:

Required Reading: April

Other reviews:
Dark Chest of Wonders

Reviews of other Narnia books:
#1 The Magician’s Nephew
#2 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
#3 The Horse and His Boy
#4 Prince Caspian
#5 Voyage of the Dawn Treader
#6 The Silver Chair

The Chronicles of Narnia # 1: The Magician’s Nephew

The Magician's Nephew by C.S. LewisThe Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis
The Chronicles of Narnia # 1
Publisher: Scholastic
Number of pages: 202
My copy: paperback, bought from Scholastic Book Fair

The secret passage to the house next door leads to a fascinating adventure

NARNIA…where the woods are thick and cold, where Talking Beasts are called to life…a new world where the adventure begins.

Digory and Polly meet and become friends one cold, wet summer in London. Their lives burst into adventure when Digory’s Uncle Andrew, who thinks he is a magician, sends them hurtling to…somewhere else. They find their way to Narnia, newborn from the Lion’s song, and encounter the evil sorceress Jadis before they finally return home.

* * *

How many times have I tried reading this book and stopped? Twice, thrice? I can’t remember. But I am kind of glad my reading ADD got me to push this book deeper down my TBR until I decided to do the right thing and read The Chronicles of Narnia in publication order.

But if you noticed, I didn’t really read them one after the other. They say Narnia books are best read at a specific time of the year, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe being best read during Christmas, while The Last Battle during Lent. Since I want to have a dip in the Narnia world before going through the final book in the series, I decided to let The Magician’s Nephew wait a bit more after I finished The Horse and His Boy, bundling it with the last book for a Holy Week read.

The Magician’s Nephew is said to be a prequel for the series, but how much of it as a prequel is something I know nothing about. I remember being confused with who Digory and Polly were, especially since I really only knew and care about the Pevensie siblings. Digory and Polly were two friends living in London who were, well, quite bored. One day, they decided to do some exploring and somehow landed in Digory’s uncle’s room, who he was quite scared of because of his strange experiments and crazy antics in their house. His uncle made them a subject of his experiment, landing him and Polly in a strange new world — another dimension, with only some rings to guide them. In this world, they meet a woman who is not who she seems, and a majestic lion whose song and breath can bring things to life.

I wasn’t expecting to love The Magician’s Nephew because of my previous reading ADD experiences, so I was pretty surprised at how I reacted to the end. I loved it in the same level as how I loved The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Silver Chair. It was written in the same children’s book way as the other books, but I guess the back story and the idea of “where it all began” fascinated me — we see exactly how Narnia was created, from lands forms to water features and all that. There was enough adventure and fun in the story to keep me invested in it (and mind you, I was reading this on a long Maundy Thursday, so there were other books that I could easily pick up over the weekend to replace this). Even if the Pevensie siblings weren’t there, I was interested in the characters, particularly Digory and Polly. I thought Digory’s story with his mom was sweet and a bit sad, but I was glad it turned out well in the end.

The Magician’s Nephew is a great example of creating a rich back story for a series, and even if it has been a while since I last read a Narnia book, the details came rushing back just as clear. This may be cheesy, but maybe it’s because a part of me has started living in Narnia when I first started reading it? I like how this ties everything neatly, and I honestly think that making this a penultimate read in the series is the best way to read it, because it makes me want to go visit the previous books to check the other details. My friend said that reading this as the first book might lessen the wonder of Narnia come second book, and I must agree with that. Of course, I’ll never know now given that I read it in a different order, but if you haven’t read any book yet and I may recommend? Read The Magician’s Nephew second to last. :) It would make the reading experience a little bit more magical.

As usual, I liked Aslan’s presence in this book, and I liked how the final events were tied neatly at the end, explaining just exactly why some things happened in the next books. Oh, and if you’re wondering — the explanation of the lamp post is there, too.

Like I said, I wasn’t expecting to really like this, but I was glad those expectations weren’t met. This definitely made me more ready to read The Last Battle, and a little bit more ready to say goodbye to Narnia, a land that I’ve been visiting for the last two years. :)

Rating:

Required Reading: April

Other reviews:
Dark Chest of Wonders

Reviews of other Narnia books:
#2 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
#3 The Horse and His Boy
#4 Prince Caspian
#5 Voyage of the Dawn Treader
#6 The Silver Chair

Required Reading: April

Look, the first quarter of 2012 is over. I cannot believe it. (And goodbye, favorite month! Till next year!)

March was all sorts of busy and fun, mostly because of work and the birthday. But this busy status and all the days/nights out was taxing to my reading and I was still oh-so-slow. I am currently behind my reading challenge by 4-5 books, and a part of me is crazily scrambling to catch up. But I can’t seem to.

Even so, the bigger part of me didn’t really mind the slowness because I think I was able to read a lot of good books in the past month. It was more of quality over quantity and it’s a nice way to spend my favorite month knowing you read good books. :D So, a recap:

There were some fun reads and some great reads in the past month too, and like I said, it was quite a nice reading month, even if I was so slow.

Now what’s in store for April?

Required Reading: April

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Wonder

Wonder by R.J. PalacioWonder by R.J. Palacio
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Number of pages: 320
My copy: ebook review copy from Netgalley

I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?

* * *

There was a time a few years ago when I was hearing mass with my family, and I happened to stand beside this man at church. The man wasn’t dressed the way other people were dressed during Sunday mass. He looked scruffy, almost like he came straight from the streets to the church, without even wearing wide shoes for men. He didn’t look dangerous, and perhaps he even is nice given that he was in church and all. But what I really noticed were his hands. They were, if I were to be perfectly honest, kind of scary. The memory’s vague, but I remember that it looked like he had some kind of skin disease — lesions, wounds and spots — the kind that one would refuse to touch in fear of contagion. I was afraid to touch it, knowing especially that at a certain part of the mass, I would have to hold his hand while praying The Lord’s Prayer.

I tried, I really did. I was in church, and holding hands with a stranger during a prayer is the thing to do. It was the good thing, the kind thing, the loving thing. It was expected. I told myself that I would do it, that I would hold his hand during The Lord’s Prayer and not be scared or repulsed or look for a hand sanitizer after the prayer. I told myself, I prepared myself and I wanted to do it.

But I didn’t. When the priest told everyone to “join hands and as one family pray the prayer Jesus had taught us,” I chickened out, opened my hand but did not take his, looked ahead and prayed, feeling the guilt grow heavier as the mass went on.

This particular memory may seem insignificant and well, I may be blowing things out of proportion. Perhaps the man never even noticed me at all — but it struck me because I really wanted to do the kind thing, but I didn’t because I was afraid. Just like how the other kids and grown ups in the book reacted to Auggie in Wonder by R.J. Palacio. August Pullman was born with a facial deformity that made him quite special to his family for his need of extra care. He has never attended a normal school, until he agreed with his parents to start attending fifth grade at Beecher Prep. Auggie is a perfect fit for the school, except maybe for his face. Told in Auggie’s point of view as well as five more from the people around him, we follow Auggie as he faces one of the most challenging times of his young life.

I was prepared for a barrage of emotions that Wonder could probably give me, after reading several reviews and updates from Goodreads friends about this book. I knew that I was probably going to like it, but what I wasn’t prepared for were what kind of emotions it would bring. Being a middle grade book, the writing was pretty simple and easy to read, especially since most of the narrators were kids as well. Wonder is bound to remind readers of their own middle school (or in my case, late elementary years, since we do not have middle school in the Philippines) experiences. It’s strange to think of it, but young people can be very mean, even if it’s not on purpose, and Wonder shows how it could be. My heart went out for Auggie, especially since he did not ask to look like the way he does. Like his parents, I wanted the best for him too.

The story was told not just in Auggie’s point of view, but also with five other kids who surrounded Auggie’s life. This made the book a little easier to relate to because let’s admit it: most of us don’t have what Auggie has. Of all the characters, I identified the most with his friend, Jack. I really wish I could be like Summer, that I could choose to be kind before anything else. I think Jack represents the side of everyone who tries to be good but fails, and then tries again anyway. And I think the trying is the most important part of it all.

There’s a lot of buzz with what Wonder teaches, or attempts to teach, but I think maybe we shouldn’t over think it too much. Sure, there are some parts that may seem a little simple, that the ending may seem to be a little too nicely wrapped up, almost like how a movie is done and we know real life is never that way. I see it as a simple thing: I see Wonder as a middle grade book that teaches kindness — to quote, …to be kinder than necessary.That as human beings, we do not just have “…the capacity to be kind, but the very choice of kindness…” and to choose that even when it’s not easy, when it’s inconvenient, even when it’s uncomfortable.

Even though reading Wonder reminded me of that particular incident I shared at the start of this review which brought back some of the guilty feelings, this book made me feel a lot better after reading it. A little bit more whole, even. With a stronger resolve to be kinder than necessary. I think that a book that can make its readers feel like that is worth a second glance.

Rating:

Other reviews:
The Book Smugglers
Good Books and Good Wine
The Midnight Garden
The Readventurer

 

What I Read (2): Aaron

What I Read

What I Read is a semi-regular guest feature in One More Page allows them to talk about what the title says: what they read. I believe that every reader has a unique reading preference and no reader is exactly the same. What I Read explores that idea, where I let the guests talk about their favorite, genre preferences, pet peeves and everything else in between. :)

On my second What I Read feature, I am very honored to have one of my closest book club friends on the blog today. I can’t remember exactly who added whom first in Goodreads, but I met him in person in 2010, back when I joined the second Goodreads Filipino group meet up. Our only link back then were YA books, and I remember we talked so much about The Hunger Games and The Mortal Instruments when we were at Cafe Breton before that meet-up ended. Soon enough, I started calling him the Mighty Evil Overlord (because he is mighty and he can be evil and he is kind of an overlord), and then eventually my adopted little brother because we are on the same wavelength for  a lot of things. That, and I tend to spoil him for some reason — case in point: Christmas 2010, I got him for my Book Blogger Holiday Swap and then also got him for our book club’s exchange gift. Talk about giving too many gifts to one person, yes? :P

Anyway, even if we don’t have the same tastes in YA books, I know that a book will be good if he recommends pushes it to me. If you think I nitpick a lot, well, you haven’t met him. But trust me, his reviews (when he has the time to write them) very trustworthy. He’s one of the few people who can demand me to read a book sooner than I want to (case in point: Paper Towns) and (since we’re on the topic), he’s also probably the biggest Nerdfighter in the Philippines. Probably the biggest Doctor Who fan, too. He’s the blogger behind Guy Gone Geek, although that blog’s a little silent lately, but you can check him out on Twitter, Tumblr and Goodreads. :)

So, let’s give it up for my adopted brother, the Mighty Evil Overlord and my friend (who is celebrating his birthday seven months from now, woot!), Aaron. :)

Aaron (and Zombies) at Alabat Island

Aaron (and Zombies) at Alabat Island

In ten words or less, what kind of books do you usually read?

I seek extraordinary adventures and believable characters when I read.

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