When Lee asked if I could review the entire Narnia series for Fantasy Book Review, at first I was completely taken aback. These are some of the most beloved books (IMO) in the world, possibly ever written, and it was my task to review them? How do you go about reviewing books that are so amazing, detailed and imaginative?
I started at the beginning and read the books in chronological order, not publishing order, which to some people is hard-core Narnia fans is crazy. Nevertheless I pushed forward and started with my personal favourite The Magicians Nephew. Normally I could rely on my memory as I usually try and make a point of reading the Narnia books once every year, but due to my increasing book collection, responsibilities, and general busy-ness, I have neglected this task in the last few years.
The Magicians Nephew is the perfect creation story, the ultimate prequel. There is literally nothing and we get to read about just how Narnia came to be, the land from scratch. Such things would be frowned upon today by the George Lucas’ and Ridley Scott’s of the world, who couldn’t go back and revive the franchise with a prequel, because well this is where it all began for Narnia, and only Lewis allowed himself to tell that story. This is what makes him such a great writer, and it is why I have such love for him as a writer, his devotion to this world and stories contained within it.
Moving on, next was the one most loved by the fans, The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe – we all read it in school, we all saw the animated after school special, the BBC live production and my personal favourite the Walden Media/Disney feature film. I wanted to touch on the movie here as I truly feel that director Andrew Adamson (Shrek) nailed this movie. It was exactly how Narnia looked and felt to me as a kid reading it. A huge country full of characters who are loveable and frightening. The battle scene at the end was exactly how I envisioned it – a large scale full out war for the future of Narnia, unlike the few paragraphs mentioned in the book.
As I re-read this book I found myself comparing it to scenes in the movie over and over again, allowing the memories from my childhood to overtake the ones of the recent movie and I found this extremely beneficial when re-reading the book. Whilst the movie got the tone perfect, nothing can ever replace the images created in your own mind, especially as a child.
Prince Caspian, definitely my least favourite (sshh don’t tell Lee!) still not my favourite but the movie is a completely different kettle of fish. The movie took it to the dark place that Narnia turned into, and as Lewis intended the readers to get older, so did the themes in the book. This translated well into the movie, although the ending was a little too “Disney” for my liking, it still stood out as one of the best in the series.
The Horse And His Boy, my second favourite book of the series, is so dramatically different from any of the other books it is almost unrecognizable (well except for Lewis’ unique writing style). Shasta and Bree are such a loveable duo – there is something so relateable about these two misfits on the run, and the idea of a talking smart-mouthed horse really stands out.
The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader is every fan’s favourite, the ultimate adventure story but for me, I never really found it too appealing. I think I am the only fan of the books who thought that the movie adaption was good and actually made the books events more interesting and appealing. The mistake the movie made was the change in studio from Disney to Fox, the cameras where clunky and looked un-professional and while the tone and acting where spot on, there was just something not right about it, and it was WAY too short to tell the story the way it should have been.
The Silver Chair was my favourite BBC movie, in particular Puddleglum is so melancholy and such a downer that he made the happy go-lucky creatures of Narnia look laughable and brought such a different tone out of Narnia. The “Green Witch” always seemed like a cheap knock off from the White Witch and not really that much of a threat.
The Last Battle would make a great movie, no not great, AMAZING movie. With a large budget and using state of the art special effects, telling the story of Narnia’s destruction would be amazing to see brought to life on screen. Everytime I read this book I just fall more and more in love with it and get something more out of it. This time I realized that Lewis is a genius, the ultimate way to make sure no-one screws with your work when you’re dead is to create the world yourself (The Magicians Nephew), tell enough stories to keep it going (book 2 – 6) then destroy the world completely so there is no way on Earth (or Narnia!) that it could ever be revived. No prequels, no sequels, no flash forwards, just nothing.
It was one of the best things I have ever done this year and definitely extremely rewarding to re-read the books and watch the films and BBC productions again. Thanks again to Lee for entrusting me with this massive responsibility and I hope you enjoyed the reviews. If you haven’t read Narnia for awhile, do yourself a favour and read the whole series again.