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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The Chronicles of Narnia # 3: The Horse and His Boy

The Horse and His BoyThe Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
The Chronicles of Narnia # 3
Publisher: Scholastic
Number of pages: 224
My copy: paperback, bought from Scholastic Book Fair

When Shasta discovers he is not Arsheesh’s son and therefore does not belong in the cruel land of Calormen, he joins forces with Bree the talking horse and flees north towards Narnia, where freedom reigns.

And so begins their hazardous journey, fraught with mystery and danger. Calormen’s capital city of Tashbaan must be crossed, a harsh desert endured, the high mountains of Archenland climbed, their enemies overcome. For the young Shasta it is an adventure beyond his wildest dreams and one destined to change his life forever.

* * *

There was a brief mention of The Horse and His Boy in The Silver Chair, and it was known as a tale told to kids during High King Peter’s time. The recommended order of reading the Narnia series sometimes switches this book with The Silver Chair, so as I was reading this I wondered if there would be a difference if I read this first before the other one, even if they were almost completely unrelated. I did miss the Pevensie siblings in the last book, so it was nice to be back in time for a bit to read about them as minor characters in the story.

Shasta is a fisherman’s son, and he’s often treated cruelly by his father, Arsheesh. One night, he heard his father discussing with a visitor about selling Shasta. Resigned to accept his fate, he was surprised when the visitor’s horse started talking to him. It turns out that the horse, who Shasta named Bree, was a Narnian horse, and everyone knows that all animals in Narnia speak. Bree invites Shasta to escape and head to Narnia up North, and the boy agrees, even if he knew nothing of riding a horse (much less own his own pair of riding boots) or how they would get to Narnia. All he knows is that he doesn’t have anything left at Calormen, and he’s always been attracted by the North. So begins Bree and Shasta’s adventures, where they meet another escapee, get chased by lions, cross an enemy kingdom and treacherous deserts, and somewhere along the way, Shasta finds out something about himself that changes his life forever.

Of all the Narnia books I have read so far, I had a hard time writing a review for this one. I’m not sure why, except that I can’t decide if I like the book or not. As with all the other Narnia books, The Horse and His Boy is classic fantasy: a character with an unknown heritage, talking creatures, a quest and villainous plan to get a queen and destroy a kingdom. It’s a good tale and it feels like this book could really be read even with little knowledge of what Narnia was about.

I enjoyed reading this, except maybe I was looking for something similar to The Silver Chair. You know, that sense of adventure, of going on a quest for Aslan, and the fact that everyone who’s been to Narnia knows who Aslan was, so the excitement of him saving the day was anticipated. Being foreigners from Narnia, the characters in this book know Aslan as a legend, or as a spirit that comes in the form of a fearsome lion. Another thing is that I was so used to reading about Narnia ruled by Caspian the Tenth and not by the Pevensie siblings, so actually reading about Susan and Edmund being King and Queen and doing royalty stuff was a novelty.

I guess what I want to say is The Horse and His Boy was a different kind of Narnia book. Don’t get me wrong — it’s good, but I guess I needed a little time to really get it and like it. I liked how everything turned out in the end. I also liked how C.S. Lewis stressed how there was a purpose with everything that happened to the characters, that Shasta’s adoption wasn’t a mistake and that even being chased by a lion in the desert had a reason behind it and it was all for their good. This book reminds me to keep on believing that despite the bad things that happen in our lives. There is a purpose, and we might not see it now, but it will eventually be revealed in the end.

If The Silver Chair was a book that seemed to gear towards people who have been believers for a while and who need a reminder of the “instructions” from Aslan, I think The Horse and His Boy is written for those who are new in the faith, for them to find someone to relate to in the form of Shasta and his companions in discovering who Aslan is. The theology wasn’t as “blatant” (well that’s what other people call it) as the ones in the others book, which makes it perfect to share with people who are curious about Christianity and for people to re-read.

Rating:

Other reviews:
Bookie Woogie
Random Musings of a Bibliophile

Reviews of Other Narnia Books:
#2: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
#4: Prince Caspian
#5: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
#6: The Silver Chair


The Chronicles of Narnia # 6: The Silver Chair

The Silver Chair by C.S. LewisThe Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
The Chronicles of Narnia # 6
Publisher: Scholastic
Number of pages: 243
My copy: paperback, from Scholastic Book Fair

Jill and Eustace must rescue the Prince from the evil Witch.

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 and face with the evil Watch. She must be defeated if Prince Rillian is to be saved.

* * *

I remember talking to my friend who’s the biggest C.S. Lewis fan, asking him if there will be a next Narnia movie. I caught The Voyage of the Dawn Treader on the plane on my way to Europe last August, and as usual, I shed some tears with Repicheep’s scene and whenever Aslan comes out. To my dismay, he told me it might take a while years before the next movie will be made because the license expired. And that just made me sad.

But that doesn’t really excuse me from continuing my Narnia adventures, so when I was already feeling too full of contemporary stuff while writing my NaNoWriMo novel, I decided to pick up some simple and familiar middle grade fantasy and what better book to read than a Narnia one, right?

The Silver Chair introduces different characters from what I have been used to, save for Aslan and Caspian and Eustace, who I first got to know in the previous book. In this book, I was introduced to Jill Pole, Eustace’s school mate and a bully target. One day, while she was hiding from the bullies in their school, Eustace finds her and tells her about the magical place he had been in with his cousins that changed him. The bullies arrived, and Eustace and Jill scramble away, going to a door on a wall that led them to Narnia. Or what looked like Narnia. Jill was surprised and scared, so much that she ends up pushing Eustace off a tall cliff. But Aslan comes to the rescue and saves him, and then gave Jill a mission with specific signs. Aslan warned Jill that she must remember these instructions and repeat them and put them in her heart, especially since it was different there in the mountain where they landed and in Narnia where they have to fulfill their mission. Aslan sends her away and she finds herself in the Narnia that Eustace also knows, and off they go to follow Aslan’s instructions, not knowing the adventures and troubles that would await them.

The Silver Chair had that same vibe that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe had, in the sense that it was also an adventure book where our heroes and heroines have a mission to fulfill. While it didn’t feel as magical as the first book in the series, there was still that sense of the unknown and the various charming and fearsome creatures that mean them good and bad. I liked how it feels like it’s a different Narnia from what I know from the first three books I’ve read.

Eustace is loads better in this book, even if I can’t stop imagining him the same way as how the actor who played him spoke and acted. He still had that annoying know-it-all tendencies, but it was not as annoying as it was before. On the other side, there is Jill. Oh Jill. How much you reminded me of myself! I always thought I would be an Edmund (and in a lot of ways, I still am), but Jill. I saw so much of myself in Jill Pole that it felt uncomfortable. At the start of the story, I kind of wanted to strangle Jill for being so stubborn — as a reader I could see where she would go wrong from a mile away, and I knew that it’s all going to bite her back. But then as I think about it…don’t I do the same thing, too? Aren’t I just as stupid and as shortsighted as Jill was, trading quick, temporary comforts for the things that really matter?

But I kind of have a feeling Aslan knew that Jill would mess up, hence the warning (also one of my favorite quotes in the book):

But, first, remember, remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs. And secondly, I give you a warning. Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters. (p.27)

There was more of Aslan in this book, but one of my favorite scenes in the book was actually one without Aslan. I liked how the kids and Puddleglum got through the encounter with an enemy without Aslan’s direct interference, but just plain belief in him. I wasn’t expecting to like The Silver Chair that much, really, but I’m glad to say it’s one of the books that surprised me. I think The Silver Chair is that book for people who’s already found the faith and is in need to strengthen that faith they found. I think it’s a book that teaches how it is to follow, how it is to live and keep the faith even in the face of adversity, and how Aslan is victorious even with the slightest, smallest concerns that we have.

Rating:

2011 Challenge Status:
TwentyEleven Challenge (Show it Who is Boss!)

Other reviews:
Bookie Woogie

Reviews of Other Narnia Books:
#2: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
#4: Prince Caspian
#5: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader