The Chronicles of Narnia is one of those series that I’ve known about for… well, my entire life, basically. C.S. Lewis is an author I’ve been passingly familiar with for many years now. Yet, for some reason, I’ve never actually read any of his works. I’ve seen all the Narnia movies, but that was all so long ago that I don’t remember a thing about them.
Particularly if they were any good or not. Do those movies hold up? Or am I the only one who remembers they existed?
Today, I’m going to take my first dive into a classic. I’m going to finally start reading the Chronicles of Narnia series. Will these books hold up as well as other fantasy stories of the twentieth century have? Or at the very least, will this book hold the test of time?
Yeah. It really does. I love this book.
Technically speaking, this book, ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’, isn’t the first Narnia book. In fact, it was technically the sixth. But chronologically, it is the first, so it’s what I started with. And I’ll be damned if this book isn’t charming and fun as hell!
The story stars two children, friends Digory, who’s mother is deathly ill, and Polly, who has no such problems in her life. When Digory’s uncle Andrew, the titular magician, tricks Polly into putting on a magic ring that sends her to another world, Digory must go after her. While there, they head into yet another world, where they accidentally free the White Witch and bring her back to their world. A few shenanigans later and the two, along with the Witch, uncle Andrew, and an unsuspecting cabby and his horse, arrive at the newborn world of Narnia. Here, Aslan, the lion who forged the world, gives Diggory a quest to make up for his bringing the Witch to his world. Will Digory fulfill his quest? Or will his greed overtake him?
Plotwise, this book is exceptionally simple. The characters are all exceedingly easy to understand, being painted in clear blacks and white. They’re either good guys or bad guys. It all wraps up in a nice little happy ending with no strings attached. Nothing complicated.
Which is good. Not everything needs to be some complex narrative that makes you think. Sometimes you just need to sit down and relax to a classic fairy tale. And if that’s what you need, this book has got you covered.
Easily my favorite thing about it is the way the narrative was presented. The whole thing is told from the perspective of a character who had been given the story by Digory and Polly years later. As such, there are plenty of moments where the author slips in little details, like how they view certain events with the eyes of an adult.
Plus, the person telling this story is willing to have fun with it. It feels like it’s being told by a fun grandparent type of character. Someone who understands how silly adult life really is and views it from the perspective of a child. It gives everything this certain charm and energy to it that makes reading the story all the more enjoyable.
Now, the dialogue is pretty strange. It leans hard into that fairy tale vibe this story gives off and mixes it with old-timey British dialects. This combination can lead to some lines that are about as natural and organic-sounding as a machine. Thankfully, it never gets so bad that it sours the story. But some of these lines can be pretty awkward.
The characters are pretty solid, though not all of them are especially memorable. Digory is a decent main character, but nothing about him really stands out, especially compared to the wonderful group dynamic we’d get in ‘The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe’ (which we’ll get to another day). Polly’s only real significance to the plot is sparking the initial conflict; after that, she basically doesn’t do anything of significance throughout the rest of the story! She just stands there and offers the occasional comment! These two are our main leads and neither one is all that strong.
Conversely, the White Witch is so damn cartoonishly evil that I practically fell for her on the spot! And Aslan, for being an omnipotent god… lion… thing (what exactly is Aslan, anyway?), is pretty interesting and enjoyable too! All the talking animals have a wonderful and hilarious dynamic (if only we got to see more of them). Uncle Andrew is probably my favorite character; he initially comes across as the main villain, but once the actual villain arrives, he basically just gets punished for his greed non-stop until the book is over.
And if there’s anything I love, it’s watching a jackass get his comeuppance.
It certainly helps that the story is so short. It doesn’t waste your time. It tells its story, which you can read pretty quickly, then it ends. It doesn’t bombard you with you pointless information. It gets in and gets out so quickly that it’s honestly surprising! It does it so quickly that I was left satisfied, yet wanting more.
Which, I mean… I’ll get. There’s not exactly a shortage of these books.
This book still holds up really well! If you haven’t read it yet, I’d recommend you check it out! Whether you read it before or after the later books in the series is up to you. But personally, I feel like this is a fantastic entry point into the Chronicles of Narnia!
Can’t wait to get proven wrong by all the others.