This is a series that I’ve been meaning to read for quite a long time. And I do mean a long time. I remember a family member buying this book set for me at one of my first book fairs in grade school, and it’s been on my shelf ever since. It isn’t as if I had a specific reason for not reading them, they were on my list, after all, they simply weren’t very high on it. But recently, I’ve been reading a lot of stand-alone books and felt like starting a series, though one significantly shorter than my last series read (A Song of Ice and Fire). So I decided to give it a go, not entirely sure what to expect. Any reviews I had heard of it were strictly from Christians, and on the religious aspect of the book. I, personally, do not practice Christianity and so, while I will be touching on that aspect in this review, I’ll be focusing more on the story and writing themselves.
The Chronicles of Narnia is set in the fantasy realms of Narnia and other surrounding lands, such as Archenland or Calormen. While Calormen is closer to our world, Narnia has mythical creatures, Talking Beasts, and magic. In each book except for The Horse and His Boy, our main protagonists are children from our world who come across entrances into this magical land, and only at the darkest of times and hours of need are they called by the Great Lion, Aslan. We begin with The Magician’s Nephew and the birth of Narnia, moving through The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, The Horse and His Boy, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair, and ending with The Last Battle. The final book of the series is particularly amazing for so many reasons, and while I won’t spoil it for you, I will say you will be absolutely stunned at the ending.
Honestly, I was really impressed with this series. From what I had heard of it, I was a little worried that it would be a bit preachy, and in truth, some parts felt borderline, and too obvious for me, but the way the series was crafted, the way Narnia and the characters were written, it makes up for it. It’s fantastic, because, while it’s a great series for kids, it’s also enjoyable as an adult. I’m not sure if all versions include pictures, but mine did, and at first it threw me off a little. But soon you get quite used to it and it becomes very natural and adds to the whole experience.
In regards to the books vs. the movies, I watched the movies long before I read the books. I’ve been a fan of them since I was a kid, and I still love re-watching them. A lot of people had told me the movies are so incredibly different from the books, and while that is definitely the case for The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Seriously. Do NOT waste your time with that movie), the others, not so much. Prince Caspian certainly has its differences, but while many of the things that take place in the movie never happened in the book, they stick to the main plot fairly well. I think the book wouldn’t have translated on screen as well, so the changes they made, in my opinion, worked. And The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is almost spot on. There are very few differences and they aren’t very big ones. As far as adaptations go, this was one of the best.
It definitely was weird for me, having seen the movies first because I usually much prefer reading the books before seeing the films, but this is one of those rare instances that I’m glad I watched the movies before I read the books, and this is almost entirely because of the character Susan. She is so different in the movies than she is in the books, and such a better character. Certainly much more likable. In the films, she’s this strong, independent, courageous and intelligent young woman, whereas in the books all she really has, especially towards the last few books, is intelligence. The more I read, the less I liked her. I think, had I read the books first, I would have had too much of a bias towards her character to love and look up to her as much as I do in the films, so I’m really quite glad that I watched the films first.
Each book is so easy to get through and such a good read. I definitely recommend this series, especially to any fantasy fans out there. It’s light, fun, and a magical read.