Prince Caspian

17 07 2012

The Narnia series is all messed up.

C.S. Lewis wrote the books in a particular order.  With each volume, he didn’t really know that there would be more.  The first three books he wrote go in chronological order, but after that, there’s some prequel stuff, some sequel stuff, and other stuff that just fits into the Narnia world, but doesn’t 100% connect with the main characters of the first three books he wrote.

So, I just finished the second book, Prince Caspian.  Wait a second, some folks say that I just read the fourth book in the series and that the book that I thought was first is actually second, and now I’ve really skipped books one and three.

Huh?

You see, for the longest time, the books were numbered in the order that Lewis wrote them.  Even though the story takes place in a different order, they remained numbered by the date of publication.

I guess some people without a whole lot to worry about other than silly trivial things like the number on the spine of a children’s fantasy story wanted them to be renumbered in the chronological order that the stories take place.

Both sides have valid points.  In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (the first book according to the publication dates) Lewis describes the fantasy world of Narnia like the reader had never seen it before, but he doesn’t do that in The Magician’s Nephew, which was written 6th, but actually takes place 1st.  That leads you to believe that the publication dates are the correct order.

However, some little kid wrote Lewis a letter in 1957, saying that his mother thought the books should be numbered in the order they were written, but the kid felt they should be renumbered to match the chronology of the story.  C.S. Lewis wrote back, sort of agreeing with the kid, but also remarking that he didn’t think he was writing a series and that it might not even really matter what number is what.

Regardless, if you’re reading the Narnia books published before 2005, they’re numbered in order of publication.  If you’re reading newer copies, they’re numbered by story chronology.

That said, I’m reading them in publication order, so Prince Caspian is the second book for me.  I enjoyed this one.  I had some issues with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, because it was very vague, skimming over what I thought were important details, and speeding through what should have been the exciting action scenes.  I think that the movie version, which I really liked a lot, ruined TLTWATW for me.

Now, having read another Narnia book, I get Lewis’ writing style a little better.  He’s not writing long drawn out, detailed stories like Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings.  He knew his audience was much younger than that, and he wrote for them.  He got to the point.

I said in my review of  Lion that I wished I’d read it as a kid, and now that I’ve finished Prince Caspian, I really wish I’d read the whole series earlier.

Prince Caspian takes place 100s, maybe even 1,000s of years after Lion did.  The title character is being groomed by his uncle, the King of Narnia to take the throne some day.  Then his uncle has a son, and Caspian learns that now that his uncle has a real heir he intends to kill Caspian, just as he killed Caspian’s father years before.

Caspian runs, hoping to flee to safety.  What he finds is Old Narnia is alive and sort of well – he’d always heard the stories of talking animals, walking trees, and mythological beasts of the past, and even though everyone else thinks they’re just stories, Caspian believes.  He was right.

He befriends a badger and two dwarves, who help him build an army of bears, mice, centaurs, giants, and squirrels.  They’re no match for the king’s army, so Caspian calls for help.  Enter Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, the four protagonists from the first (or second) book.  The former kings and queens of Narnia enter the fray to aid their new friend.

I liked this one much better than the first one (except Susan, I kinda wanted to punch her in the face).  The action is stronger, the characters better developed, and the story more complex.  Now I want to see the movie.

I’ve now read 45 books this summer, which puts me half way through my quest to read 90 books in 90 days during vacation.  

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