I don’t know why I decided that in June* I would read essentially a book a day, but I decided I wanted to see if I could do it. I have, of course, stacked the deck a little with shorter novels, romances, audiobooks, etc, but I have given myself space to read some chonkers as well. Let’s see if I can do it!
*So behind in reviews :((((
My re-visitation of the Chronicles of Narnia opens this challenge. Fortuitous that I was re-reading this series anyway in 2021 because you can read each of the books in less than two hours. This book, first in publication but second in chronological order, is the most iconic, and the one most people talk about when referencing the series, but it has never really been my favorite of the bunch. I don’t remember the last time I read this series, but it must have been a while, because I had a little bit of a different reaction to it. What I’ve come away with is that this is a book that is perfect for younger people, who can just go with things and fill in the blanks, but I have become a more critical reader in my older age, and I had some worldbuilding questions*! Also, the comment from Aslan about how battles go badly when women fight really irked me this time around, even though I understood the cultural context.
*Just for one example, what do all the Animals eat? We have a Lion, but I presume he doesn’t eat any of the other talking Animals, and that he is not a vegetarian. How do they distinguish what animals are fair prey, and what aren’t? If he’s about to chomp down, and the Animal goes, “No, don’t eat me!!” “Oh, sorry about that, mate!” Also, in this book Jadis has a backstory, which is fine (she’s apparently a descendant of Adam’s first wife, Lilith, and is part jinn) but it is confusing when paired with what we know of her origin from The Magician’s Nephew. Has anyone puzzled all this out or fanwanked it?
A couple of things that had new resonance for me as an adult reader were the way Lewis uses Edmund, and the Stone Table incident. I very much appreciated the presence of a badly behaved main character, who is a child. Perfectly behaved main characters can be insufferable, but Edmund is actually a driving force in the story, both in starting the events, and in how the other characters respond to them. He’s also a morally complicated character, which I think is a very good thing for children to read about, and which I appreciated as an adult.
As for the Stone Table, it missed me entirely as a child that Aslan was Jesus (not an allegory! He is literally Jesus as per Lewis’s intentions, Google it) and how the Stone Table sacrifice parallels the story of Jesus dying on the cross to save people from their sins. Even after I realized the intention behind this, I didn’t read super far into it, just that Aslan was like Jesus, and sacrificed himself for Edmund. This time around, I realized it goes further than that. Aslan’s sacrifice breaks the table upon which the Deeper Magic is written, the Magic that would give all traitors (sinners) to Jadis as her due. So he is not just saving Edmund, but all Narnians who are treacherous in the future. His forgiveness of Edmund sets a precedent.
All that to say that this was still such a very charming read, but it did not work as well on me as it has in the past. If I were really being honest, I would lower it a full star, but I’m leaving up the five star rating because of nostalgia, and how much I loved it in the past. I’m hoping Prince Caspian, which has historically been my favorite, lives up to my memory of it.