Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle

Wow! We are finished reading Narnia! It's bittersweet, because we absolutely loved reading the books, but it's going to be fun to move on to something else. We sped through The Last Battle, and finished it in a week!

The Story: It's the end of Narnia. A devious Ape convinces a poor Donkey to dress in a lion's skin and then passes him off as Aslan, convincing people and creatures of Narnia to do terrible things, saying that they are Aslan's will. The current (and final) King of Narnia, Tirian, calls for help from the Real Aslan, because he sees through the ruse, and who should be sent to help but Jill and Eustace? They fight together to try to save Narnia and the Narnian's from the horrible Ape, and in the end, find that their adventure is going to bring them to a much different end than they would ever have thought.

The Good: It's exciting, that's for sure. There are lots of lessons to be learned in this book, and all of the favorite characters from the previous books are revisited. The imagery is fantastic, and the characters are just wonderful. The end was lovely, and I wasn't sure it was going to be.

The Bad: There are some very strong religious references in this one, with Aslan the Jesus Lion, as one of my friends calls him, and the Evil God Tash, the parallel to the Devil. I am not a religious person, so some of it was a bit much for me, but I guess it all boils down to the core morals, and that I don't have a problem with. Good prevails (sorry if I give anything away!) and Evil is quenched. Some of the things in the book are really dark, though. There were cliffhangers at the end of nearly every chapter, and so we ended up reading 2 chapters most nights, so that I wouldn't leave Evalina with anything that would leave her with bad dreams. The evil was SO evil that it was scary even for me. Evalina didn't seem that shaken. And what happened to Susan? Her absence was just kind of weird, and not fully explained.

The Verdict: What a way to end the series! We had a hard time putting it down. Some of the references went over Evalina's head, I'm sure, but I bet that she got more than I thought she did. She really loved the references back to the earlier books, and actually has decided to go back and read the first book by herself. I don't know if she is actually "reading" it, or "skimming" it, but it is wonderful either way. She loved in this book when her favorite characters from the other books showed up, especially Reepicheep. I do think that she ended up being a bit too young to fully appreciate this book, but she still loved it, even if she probably missed a lot of the nuances. It was a great conclusion to our Narnian adventures.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair

I'm sad that we are almost finished with Narnia! We have been enjoying it so much.. We finished The Silver Chair this morning, and Evalina just loved it, and vowed to go to Narnia, if ever she got the chance. She wants to meet Aslan. I don't blame her. Aslan is cool.

The Story: Eustace from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader? He's back. At a "new" kind of school in England, called Experiment House, he and his friend Jill are being bullied horrendously. Eustace and Jill were drawn to Narnia, at their time of need, and to a time when Narnia needs help. Many years have passed since Eustace was last in Narnia - Narnian time, of course. King Caspian has become an old man, and he sets off on a journey in search of his lost son before Eustace has a chance to talk to him again. Eustace and Jill have also been sent in search of the lost Prince Rillian, by Aslan himself, and they have to travel to the Wilds in the North looking for him, following signs given by Aslan. They have help from a curious creature, Puddleglum, a Marsh-Wiggle. Along the way, they encounter a council of owls, a mysterious lady and a silent knight, giants, gnomes, and everything in between. But, will they find the Prince?

The Good: It's an adventure story, which is fun. The characters are, as always, well developed and well rounded. No one is so brave as to be unbelievable. Puddleglum is a fun character, who acts kind of as the Eeyore of the story. It was quick moving, and it was not battle-heavy. There are a few skirmishes here and there, but nothing crazy.

The Bad: "The" Silver Chair in the title doesn't come in until more than halfway through the book, and Evalina kept asking why it was called The Silver Chair. I had to tell her I didn't know, until we got there. The references to Experiment House are a little hard for a modern child to understand, I think, since it talks about how new and different it is, and how "experimental," because it's co-ed and secular, among other things. Hmmm. There were some slightly dark moments in the book, but it wasn't so bad.

The Verdict:
Not my favorite of the series, but still good. It was sad to see Caspian so old, after meeting him and "getting to know" him as a young and virile King, but having Eustace, Jill, and Puddleglum as the central characters worked. Evalina missed Lucy, Edmund, Peter, and Susan, but she got over it. As with the other books in the series, it is listed for grades 4-8, but Evalina (nearly done K), loved it. We are looking forward to the next (and final) book in the series.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

We read The Voyage of the Dawn Treader really quickly - in about 10 nights of reading. Again, it was very very good... I'm kind of sad that we only have two Narnia books left.

The Story: Lucy and Edmund are visiting with their unpleasant cousin, Eustace, when all three find themselves unexpectedly pulled out of our world, onto the deck of The Dawn Treader, set sail from Narnia with (among others) King Caspian and the brave mouse Reepicheep. They are out to explore the seas beyond Narnia, in search of seven lords who had been sent away when Caspian's dastardly uncle Miraz because they had shown support for Caspian when Miraz had been king. It was an amazing journey, with stops at many fantastical islands, in search, not only of the missing lords, but for the mythical country where Aslan comes from. Along the way, Eustace underwent some very good changes in character, due in no small part to a time when he was temporarilly transformed into a dragon. Will they reach the ends of the world? What will they find there, and along the way?

The Good: Just about everything in this book is good. The imagery is amazing. The islands are all so different and gorgeous, you wish you could go there yourself. The people they meet along the way are interesting and full of life. Evalina always wanted me to read more of the book than one chapter a night, and though I stuck to one chapter for the most part, I was swayed a couple times. There was very little violence in this book, which is nice, considering the battle-heavy scenes in the past couple books. It also got Evalina kind of excited to look at maps.

The Bad: Edmund, Lucy, and Caspian were really kind of background characters. Eustace and Reepicheep got a little more "page time." The real characters were the islands and the people they met along the voyage. This might be a disadvantage if you are really invested in the characters. If you are more into the adventure, there should be no problem for you. The ending was kind of abrupt, but I think that was more a problem for me than for Evalina. Since we jumped right into the next book, there was not too much of a problem.

The Verdict:
Loved it! Evalina loved it, too. She was quite concerned for Reepicheep, who had a tough decision at the end (and I am not going to spoil it for you), and kept asking about him through the book. She loved every moment that Aslan came into the story. She wanted to look at the map to try to figure out where they were. It was very cool. I would love to see a movie made of this one, if it could do it justice. The recommended age on Amazon is grade 4-8, but again, my 6 year old adored it. I think this is one of my favorites (and I keep saying that), because I love the voyage, more than I like the battles in the previous books. I think Evalina liked it more, too. It was really just wonderful.