I always liked this one as a kid, but it was never my favorite. It had an edge of This Is Too Real about it at the time, which looking back now is hilarious because there is nothing realistic about this book. But as a kid, I found the constant mentions of death and the afterlife (even if just a metaphorical afterlife) disturbing. Which is weird, because in other contexts, I didn’t mind reading about those things. There was just something strange to me, I think, about people who were willing seeking it out, treading the edge of the unknown on purpose. I guess I would not make a very good adventurer (I definitely would be terrible at it).
This book, if you’re not aware or just don’t remember it well from when you were also a small child, follows Caspian as he fulfills his vow to follow the seven lords his evil uncle Miraz essentially exiled into the unknown, and find out what happened to them. This involves sailing east past any known lands towards presumably what is the edge of the world, and Aslan’s country beyond (essentially, Narnian Heaven). Lucy and Edmund pop in, their barnacle of a cousin Eustace in tow (I rolled my eyes at Lewis’s conservatism in evidence here, because he gives the tiresome Eustace beliefs in such terrible things as science and equality and democracy along with his whininess and lack of imagination and empathy, among other fun qualities).
The adventures of the Dawn Treader essentially involve them island-hopping until they hit the end of the world, and the islands they encounter grow more and more fantastical as they get closer to the edge of the world. The adventures are very imaginative, and involve Eustace becoming a better person via shapechanging into a dragon, among other things. Now that I’m thinking about it, including Eustace was very smart. He is a nice foil for Lucy and Edmund (particularly Edmund, who has his own past of being a shit) and provides conflict and fresh eyes into Narnia. In all, it’s an interesting adventure, but does remain just a bit unsettling. The poor guy who ends up turned into gold at the bottom of a pond, just because he was hot and wanted some water can attest to that.
I do want to voice official complaint with the ghost of C.S. Lewis that it’s super shitty Ramandu’s daughter, who ends up marrying Caspian, never even has a name. She’s just ‘Ramandu’s daughter’. Come on, man.