The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair

12 08 2012

The first three books in the Narnia series focused on the Pensevie siblings: Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy, in the first two, and Edmund and Lucy in the third, but C.S. Lewis left the Pensevies back at home for the fourth book, The Silver Chair.

In fact, for the first time in the series, there’s hardly any connection to the previous books.  Eustace Stubb, the cousin of the Pensevies is back, but he’s a completely different character, having grown and changed during his adventures in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  Prince Caspian, now King Caspian, and Trumpkin the Dwarf are also back, but only as very minor characters in the background, and they’ve gone from  adventurers to a feeble old men on the verge of death.

Narnia’s all new, and actually, most of the story takes place in other worlds around and underneath Narnia.  This has so much potential, it’s tough to stomach how weak the story turns out to be.  It could have been so cool.

In this story, Eustace and his schoolmate, Jill Pole, are called to Narnia by Aslan to find Prince Rillian.  The prince had disappeared nearly a decade earlier, after the sudden death of his mother, and with King Caspian fading quickly, the prince is needed or, without leadership, Narnia will fall apart.

Eustace and Jill are given a series of signs to look for that will aid them in their quest, but they have a difficult time following directions and miss most of the signs, continuously finding themselves in trouble.  Along with Puddlegum, a new character from a race of people called Marshwiggles (that’s there to replace the Beavers from book one and fan favorite, Reepicheep the mouse, from the next two, but doesn’t do it well), the two children blunder through their mission and find Rillian despite the constant mistakes.

A bit about Puddlegum, who may be the worst part of the book.  When the Star Wars prequels came out everyone complained about Jar Jar Binks.  He was no Chewbacca.  He was annoying.  There for comic relief, he was not funny.  George Lucas took a ton of flack for this character.  Well, he should have read the Narnia books, because in books 2 and 3, Reepicheep the Mouse was a favorite of almost every reader – he was brave, drove the action, and we, as readers, cared about him.  In this book, Reepicheep is hardly mentioned, and since the action takes place decades after the last story, he’s presumed to be long dead – big mistake.  Puddlegum becomes the sidekick, and with his webbed feet and scaredy-cat ways, he’s an awful lot like Jar Jar.  Puddlegum is a complete downer, always looks at the worst possibility… let’s just say some people believe a glass is half empty and some believe it’s half full, but when it comes to Puddlegum, all the people just want to throw the glass at his stupid face.

At times, this one is the best of the series – new races of people, new worlds, new legends, new creatures  – but at other times it’s the worst – it seems that Lewis has run out of good ideas through a lot of the story.  Overall, it’s an enjoyable story, but took me much longer than the first three books, because I never felt very attached to the characters or compelled by the story.  Perhaps it was a mistake to take away all the characters we loved in the first three books.  I truly believe that if the children had been given a better sidekick than Puddlegum, this could have been the best of the series instead of the worst.

I’m going to keep reading the last three books, but I sincerely hope they get back to the excitement of Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, because if they keep going downhill it’s going to be rough.

The Silver Chair was book #66 for me this summer on my quest to finish 90 books in 90 days.  

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