The Last Battle (#7) by C. S. Lewis

Published: March 5th 2002 (originally 4 September 1956)
Goodreads badgePublisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 229
Format: Book
Genre: Junior Fiction/ Fantasy
★ – 1 Star

The last battle is the greatest battle of all.  Narnia… where lies breed fear… where loyalty is tested… where all hope seems lost. During the last days of Narnia, the land faces its fiercest challenge – not an invader from without but an enemy from within. Lies and treachery have taken root, and only the king and a small band of loyal followers can prevent the destruction of all they hold dear.

Note: This review is what I wrote the second I finished this book. I put the book down and stormed to the computer and wrote this. I feel it captures my feeling at the time when I read it. I apologise if you liked this book, I understood from the many five star reviews people did, but I saw just as many on my side so I don’t feel too bad about it. I don’t know if you can pick up the anger in my writing tone, it is hard not to, but I was trying to be as civil as possible.

“I hated the ending. Simple as that. I wanted to throw the book across the room, scrunch it into a pile and set it on fire. I get your message Mr Lewis. Don’t shove it down my throat. You managed to slip it in unbeknownst to me in the second book, I don’t know enough of the Bible to know if you did it in any other story except the first and that was tolerable, but when you blatantly spell it out in such an insulting and judgmental manner I get pretty damn pissed off.

The book started off ok, it was a bit sad to see how the once beautiful Narnia had become but it was a new adventure and I accepted it. The whole ape thing confused me and I thought it was weird but I accepted it. Times were tough in Narnia, it was thousands of years since the early days and everyone had evolved, I accepted it. Then the children come back, there is hope yet. Oh not everyone, ok…it might be alright. But no, no it was not. The further this book went I could see the happiness and tolerance metre in my head slowly drop. Then the final part of the book came and I just got angry. I don’t know the last time I got as angry at a book as I did at this. I forgot all the other great books I had read of this series and focused on how Lewis managed to screw up the last book of the series. He almost got through it without making an ass out of himself and causing a divide in the readers. The rest of the books would vary from a few people, but this book would divide one way or the other I could tell.

We effectively rushed through the ending, skipping long explanations and just saying this is what happened and this is what it is now. Let’s all be accepting good Narnian slaves and live forever after in this wonderland and don’t think too much of how you are here. Oh and never mention those who got left behind cause they are the devil incarnate. Thank you Mr Lewis, I hope you’re happy with yourself.”

So that was was my initial reaction and review. I would like to add that almost a year later, and a lot calmer, I wouldn’t change anything because that is how I felt about what happened but I will try and offer a better summary. This is the seventh book in my chronological system, I cannot imagine how this could possible be anything other than last so that is undisputed. We are not given any real explanation why the story begins how it does and so for a lot of it I was confused about what was going on. The ending of The Silver Chair and the past history Lewis used I was expecting a slight continuation, but not having that I thought perhaps we were doing another seemingly unconnected The Horse and His Boy style book. The issue I had with that was that this was supposed to be the final book, the book that concluded all the stories, all the magic, all the crossovers and lives that we had seen; and when that didn’t seem to be happening I was very confused. The ape thing I mentioned was were my anger sort of began. Maybe not anger but I think having come from this succession of great Narnia history and beauty, seeing it being tampered with felt disrespectful. I don’t want to make any connection between the ape/human debate because I can’t entirely see how that is relevant considering what we have seen, but knowing Lewis’ ability to throw in symbolism at every turn it wouldn’t surprise me.

As I say not a lot was explained so there were times where I was reading and going along with it because I could not figure out where any of this was headed. I know Lewis had a tendency to add religion into his books. I got the message in The Magician’s Nephew, this, somehow, was a lot worse because it was not even using the imagery and the metaphor and symbolism that that book had, and even The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was subtler (for me anyhow). I won’t tell you not to read it, not at all, and I know this is simply my view on the book, other people have loved it, bear that in mind and don’t go into this book expecting the worst. I just want you to know that for me, this book is very different than the previous ones. Lewis seems to take things to another level, perhaps if he had been gradually building throughout this series the book would not have been such a shock, but for me it seemed unexpected and extreme considering where we had come from. There had been no indication that those sorts of things were possible nor that they would happen. I may have to reread some reviews to understand why people loved it, and I have an inkling, but I am willing to try.

The Silver Chair (#6) by C. S. Lewis

Published: March 5th 2002 (originally 7 September 1953)
Goodreads badgePublisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 257
Format: Book
Genre: Junior Fiction/ Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

A prince imprisoned – a country in peril. 
Narnia…where giants wreak havoc…where evil weaves a spell…where enchantment rules. Through dangers untold and caverns deep and dark, a noble band of friends are sent to rescue a prince held captive. But their mission to Underland brings them face-to-face with an evil more beautiful and more deadly than they ever expected.
 
The Silver Chair. The sixth, though sometimes fourth book (no, not letting this idiotic thing go yet) of The Chronicles of Narnia. This is the first book after we see the last of the Pevensie siblings. If you were reading the original publication order then this would be the first book in the series where the Pevensie siblings do not appear. I however, as stated in previous reviews, unknowingly followed the order my box set gave me which placed them in the chronological order. However you chose to read these books, or did read these books is up to you and probably does not really matter except when commenting about them in book reviews and trying to phrase certain things. Since this is classed as the fourth of the “originals” it does tie in with the Pevensie so we will look at it like that, despite all this extra knowledge due to the fact it now isn’t actually number four. Still with me? It’s horrid I know.

The Silver Chair brings the return of Eustace, cousin and former brat of The Dawn Treader adventures. The story begins with Eustace returning to school after the holidays when his cousins Lucy and Edmund visited, and after his transformation in Narnia. This story also introduces a new character in Jill Pole;  their relationship between the pair isn’t one of great admiration and fleeing from bullies is what gets their adventure going. Ah Jill Pole, the annoying and useless hero of Narnia. I apologise Jill, you were not that bad and you recovered well, but you did cause some strife.  Dear Jill is suddenly and surprisingly thrown into the world of Narnia with Eustace as Narnia calls to help them, or get help from them, we are yet to find out.

There is mystery and intrigue from the get go in Narnia. Despite being an adventure story Lewis manages to create a lot of questions and intrigue in seemingly simple storylines. Aslan appears early on, and it was interesting to see how he treats the non cherished children. I do enjoy The Silver Chair as a story, the new characters are a great change from the usual bunch, and now we have popped off the last of the famous four we get to explore more of Narnia. Eustace is a lot more bearable after his last adventure, and Jill is alright, but throwing her into this world where she is demanded of so much is a bad mix. Watching her fail at every turn is a tad annoying, I always got annoyed at her, but you can see how she faults and so you do understand which is almost more annoying.

I think the new settings and people makes this a high favourite. More of Narnia is explored and it shows that lives exist away from the drama of previous books. Time has also moved a lot faster than in the real world and so the world has changed once again, creating new issues problems and a new history to learn. One of the new characters Puddleglum is by far a favourite character of mine; his cynicism and glumness is always a joy, and he is very matter of fact when you look past the despair he always seems to feel.

It is not only new characters as The Silver Chair brings a few old faces again as the story connects more with Prince Caspian than to The Dawn Treader. Aslan’s appearances seem more aggressive than in previous books, though that too is understandable considering what happens. What I always enjoyed about this story was the magic involved; it is a different magic than that in previous books. We see the darker side and the evil and beauty other magic holds; similar to that in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe but a little bit different again. The plot aides this magic well, but alone the story developed is actually quite interesting and engaging. Outside of the rest of the series and continual adventures it stands on its own fairly well. It was good not to rehash every bit of the past and just take the necessary components, something that some of the previous books over indulged in. Another advantage of removing yourself from the legend and past of the Four Kings and Queens of Narnia.

With these later books being a little less continual you can say it kind of follows on, but the events of Dawn Treader are not in vain, it all comes together in the slightest ways. Characters and stories do still reappear and bring the world of Narnia completely together on the page. No good will come from reading this series in a random order, there is not enough recap to allow that, but by changing the order depending on editions it forces you to chose. Pick a version, whether original or chronological, and stick with it. It is always easier to read things in the given order (which ever order you choose) as it avoids confusion, and especially as the series comes to a close it is more important than before.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (#5) by C. S Lewis

Published: March 5th 2002 (originally 15 September 1952)
Goodreads badgePublisher: HarperTrophy
Pages: 272
Format: Book
Genre: Junior Fiction/ Fantasy
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ – 5 Stars

A voyage to the very ends of the world. 

Narnia… where a dragon awakens… where stars walk the earth… where anything can happen. A king and some unexpected companions embark on a voyage that will take them beyond all known lands. As they sail father and farther from charted waters, they discover that their quest is more than they imagined and that the world’s end is only the beginning.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the third published but chronological fifth book in the Narnia series and yet another I rather liked. The way Lewis has created this world and these stories is so elegant and magical that you do forget his shortcomings if you find them and get carried off in the narrative.

Following the events of the previous story we are introduced to cousin Eustace and his horrid and bratty ways. This is the first book without Peter or Susan, Peter is studying and Susan is travelling in America. The story begins with Lucy and Edmund arriving at their cousin’s house to stay for the holidays. Given that Lucy and Edmund have been king and queen of an ancient land they really do put up with a lot from their cousin. Lewis manages to capture his personality
well and you do get a sense of his intolerance and spoilt nature. When the inevitable call from Narnia comes the three travellers find themselves onboard the ships of Caspian, now the king of Narnia. Three years has passed in the Narnian world and Caspian and his crew are sailing the seas and distant Narnian lands looking for the seven lost Lords; a quest for his coronation. Despite being in the land, Eustace still refuses to accept the stories his cousins told him are true and makes the entire journey tedious for all involved.

This book follows Caspian as he searches the lands for the missing Lords and in doing so the visiting trio get swept up in the adventures. Lucy and Edmund are older now so they also act and carry themselves as more grown up, added their royal position and the effect Narnia has on them only makes them more likeable in this book. There are a lot of new faces; I especially like Reepicheep, simply because despite him being a mouse he is a tough fighter and doesn’t take any of Eustace’s nonsense. Though I will say Eustace does not remain as intolerable for long and he redeems himself. Aside from the characters, the lands the ship visits, and the adventures and situations the crew find themselves in are quite wonderful; they are beautifully dangerous, magical, mysterious, and enchanting all at once. There is magic, dragons, slavery, mysterious mist, sand footprints, all you could ever want in an adventure!

I did like the dragon inclusion in this novel. When I was younger I used to think dragons were real; I thought they were like dinosaurs in that they existed a long time ago and were now extinct. I was quite happy to believe this until I realised the truth; and I’m a little sorry to say it was a real disappointment, one of those ‘feel it in your chest’ disappointments. And so I must now get my dragon delights through literature.

I do not want to ruin the story by giving anything away but there were some issues I found, nothing to affect my overall opinion just a few small details that caught my eye. I will admit I did not understand the ending completely until the film came out, but I understood enough. It was the third time I had the sense Lewis was trying to push religion on his readers through the story. This was blatantly obvious in the film, but I was glad the book had some restraint about it. As per usual Aslan does make an appearance, though not for long, instead he is more of an ideal at first, similar to that in Prince Caspian or A Horse and His Boy.

Having come so far changes are inevitable, especially since we are now privy to these Narnian rules, however unexplained they may be. I think by reading the other non-Pevensie focused books you do not miss the absent Pevensie’s as much, nor mind new characters being brought in because you have been exposed to others and different stories. I think if we had nothing but the four siblings then having them gradually be removed would be strange, almost like recasting to keep a series going. As the series is coming to an end you really have to keep going till the end, and now with new faces being introduced there is a chance of different styles of adventures.

Prince Caspian (#4) by C. S Lewis

Published: March 5th 2002 (originally 15 October 1951)
Goodreads badgePublisher: HarperTrophy
Pages: 240
Format: Book
Genre: Junior Fiction/ Fantasy
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ – 5 Stars

A prince fights for his crown
Narnia…where animals talk…where trees walk…where a battle is about to begin.
A prince denied his rightful throne gathers an army in a desperate attempt to rid his land of a false king. But in the end, it is a battle of honor between two men alone that will decide the fate of an entire world.

Do you know why this is one of my favourite in the series? Because they finally acknowledge what happens when the four beloved kings and queen of Narnia, that have been sought after for one hundred years and who saved Narnia from eternal winter, when they disappear people took notice! For years before I actually read this book it annoyed me to no end that nobody seemed to mention they had vanished from Narnia in The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe, and the children themselves seemed to brush it off. They ruled for years and people would miss them! Thank you for finally mentioning it Prince Caspian even if it was only briefly.

We meet again these four children who are waiting at a train station. They are planning to go back to school when a distant horn attracts their attention. The four then feel themselves being dragged against their will and they are magically transported to a mystery beach near an old ruined castle. It is not long before the four realise they are back in Narnia, however their return to Narnia demonstrates to readers that time passes differently in Narnia and that one year on Earth has actually been hundreds of years in Narnia.

As they begin to explore and find the reason for why they were summoned they find a dwarf who tells them what has happened since their disappearance. Narnia has been invaded and divided by Telmarines while the rightful king is oppressed. The Pevensies children are soon embroiled in the issues of the new Narnia and try and help Prince Caspian gain back his thrown and restore the Narnia they once knew.

Aslan makes his usual appearance in cryptic and unclear ways, and old foes threaten to appear to fight in the coming war. The conflict and efforts to get Narnia back to the glory says is a great read really. Though there is nothing more than the fight to get Caspian onto the thrown, the politics and sneakiness of those involved does make an interesting read as always. Lewis manages to make these battles and political brawls engaging to readers in non technical and not overly descriptive and violent ways.

The story is suited for all readers, children do and have enjoyed this book, and adults love it as well. There is certainly a lot more being able to be read into these books the older you get and I think this is a great reason for a reread. As much as it is an enjoyable, lovely, familiar story, there are greater discoveries and meanings to be found. There doesn’t have to be a meaning in everything of course, and I certainly don’t want there to be hidden meaning in everything because it can ruin simple stories. However knowing Lewis’ style he likes to add meaning and hide things in layers through his story that are revealed each time you read and that can be discovered the older you get.

The ending offers a surprise that was initially unexpected, and rather not explained, simply yet another thing we must accept from Lewis. There is also no cliff hanger or anything that gives you incentive to continue unless you wish to see what other adventures there are. This is not a bad thing, it is a series with different adventures that connect and revolve around the same group of people. You just keep going through the series and see what happens. There is a chronology (let’s not get into the issues again but there is), so you do have a desire to see what happens next in the plot, and now we know time goes differently and that there are apparently rules you are curious to see the changes that might happen in the next book. I think if you are starting a series you do have to read the complete set because you really cannot gain a full understanding of the story if you don’t.

The Horse and His Boy (#3) by C. S. Lewis

Published: March 5th 2002 (originally 6 September 1954)
Goodreads badgePublisher: HarperTrophy
Pages: 241
Format: Book
Genre: Junior Fiction/ Fantasy
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ – 5 Stars

A wild gallop for freedom. 
Narnia…where horses talk…where treachery is brewing…where destiny awaits. On a desperate journey, two runaways meet and join forces. Though they are only looking to escape their harsh and narrow lives, they soon find themselves at the center of a terrible battle. It is a battle that will decide their fate and the fate of Narnia itself.

This is the other book that has contention over the order. Even though it’s only been a couple days I was already confusing myself when I thought I had started reviewing them out of order and had to go and check. The fact that different publishers have different orders makes it worse, we need a universal agreement on what it should be. Personally I like this order better, but it was because this is the order I first read them in so I don’t know whether that makes me lean towards this set other than the fact it’s the way I know. It really should not be an issue and I am a little annoyed these stories can be interchangeable. There is actually a reason why I like this book being in the third place instead of fifth is because the content of this story is referred to in the fourth book The Silver Chair and it was good to understand the reference. If you have an entire book explaining events and circumstances that refer to a minor mention in a previous book it looks odd. This way we are given the story and we see how the legend has lived on later on. To add to this confusion, there is actually a chronological order that keeps it in a timeline of the events rather than the published order; I think I liked it better before I knew any of these issues to be honest, it does your head it.

Either way, I rather liked this book. Because so much of this series refers to the sainted Pevensie children, any time they vary away from them it is a pleasure. They are still there in part of course, but they are not the major focus. This story is set during the reign of the four siblings that we brush over in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and explores the countries Calormen and Archenland which apparently are neighboring lands south of Narnia. What was great about this book was the fact we got to see a greater part of the world, and the fact it was just outside Narnia meant we were shown that it wasn’t the only land, nor was it the only one with Kings and political issues or war.

Initially we follow a young boy called Shasta who runs away with a horse, Bree, but soon they join another pair who are also journeying to Narnia. In the beginning we follow the travels of the group as they head through the land and through towns as they head north. There are developments in the story as Shasta is victim of mistaken identity , and it is through this we get to see the Narnian connection and the first references to the Pevensie Royals. Since the Wardrobe book brushed over their reign it is good that we actually get to read about some of the events that happened during those years. Considering they are talked about for years after the fact, and essentially becoming legends it was a bit unfair that we only got to see a few of their achievements. I don’t really want to talk more about the plot because I think it is better read than have it explained to you. Lewis pretty much explains the journey through these two lands and the adventures the group encounters as they try and reach their destination. There are battles, politics, and surprisingly a bit of mystery and confusion that make you guess where it could lead. It was a great little story that is rather sweet. If you think about it The Horse and His Boy really could not be in the series because aside from the reference later on there are no real events that impact directly on the future books, but I’m glad it is in the series, you get rather attached to Shasta as you go along.

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