Tag: C.S. Lewis


Review – The Last Battle

Posted 10 February, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 6 Comments

Cover of The Last Battle by C.S. LewisThe Last Battle, C.S. Lewis

What to say about this one? I don’t really like it. It’s not just the fact that Narnia comes to an end — though there’s that — but it’s also that I don’t really like any of the characters. I don’t have that same hook to make me care about what’s happening as I did in the earlier books. And it’s so preachy and obvious. There is some beauty in it — the universalism, for example, when those who do good deeds are really serving Aslan after all.

But. There’s also a ton of xenophobia and stereotypes, and let’s not even talk about the sexism as regards Susan. (Though, she’s not dead, so there’s always a chance for her. Small comfort.)

It’s hard to feel the joy of the ending after the rubbish that comes before it. I think in future, I’ll just skip this book if I reread the series again. Possibly The Silver Chair, too. It lacks the warmth and energy of the chronologically earlier books.

Rating: 1/5

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Review – The Silver Chair

Posted 6 February, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of The Silver Chair by C.S. LewisThe Silver Chair, C.S. Lewis

One of the least magical Narnia books, for my money. Puddleglum is a delight, but Jill and Eustace aren’t the best of the protagonists, particularly in their continued selfishness and quarrelsomeness. And Rillian never really gets over his terrible first impression, for all that you know he’s enchanted. And the antagonist, well. She’s more of the same type as Jadis, if more the seductress type. Actually, that point is what makes her less pleasant — her power is in seduction and sensuality, and there’s a kind of Christian horror of that which definitely hasn’t aged well, if it ever worked.

I do wish we’d had more of the gnomes and their land of Bism, though! That bit of magic and adventure might have been enough to elevate the book, if it had actually been followed through.

Rating: 2/5

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Review – Prince Caspian

Posted 27 January, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Prince Caspian by C.S. LewisPrince Caspian, C.S. Lewis

If this book is a blatant Christian allegory, I don’t know enough to notice — well, okay, there are some bits which are, but that’s always the case when Aslan is involved. Not surprisingly, perhaps, this is one of my favourites. I love Caspian and his rapid rise to maturity and understanding, and his determination to do right by his people. Even if those people happen to be talking badgers. The supporting cast, like Trumpkin and Trufflehunter, are fun, and of course, it also features the Pevensies. What’s not to love?

This one probably gave Tolkien the most heart palpitations as regards mixing-and-matching of mythologies (suddenly the Maenads appear following Jesus!), but in a way, I like that too because it’s quite a universalist spirit. Take what’s good and uplifting and illuminating from all kinds of mythologies, and live by that — that’s not my motto, but it could be.

It doesn’t feel quite as warm as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe does — to me, anyway — but it’s fun.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – The Horse and His Boy

Posted 23 January, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Horse and His Boy by C.S. LewisThe Horse and His Boy, C.S. Lewis

This was one of my favourites of the Narnia books as a child, and reading it now, I’m not sure why. The story is okay, though it’s mostly set outside of Narnia. I suppose it’s the setting that really lets it down: the Calormenes are blatant stereotypes, and Calormen itself is an obvious exoticisation of a Muslim country. I do give it some credit for having a female lead in Aravis — a female lead who can ride and hunt better than the male lead, who is brave and clever, though not perfect. (She’s self-centered and selfish, as well, without giving thought to the consequences of her actions.) It’s even better that she is a Calormene, even though she’s presented as rather an exception.

(For example, Lasaraleen is Aravis’ friend, but Lewis doesn’t have nearly as much time for her. It’s just the same as the way he later dismisses Susan: Lasaraleen is feminine, interested in clothes and makeup and men, and so he dismisses her. I’m not sure it was narratively necessary to make her seem so silly. Wouldn’t it have been more interesting if Aravis was tempted to stay with her because she’s sensible and smart and reminds Aravis of the enjoyable aspects of her life in Calormen?)

Anyway, it’s still fairly fun, and one of the least openly allegorical books. So, a rather lukewarm three stars.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Posted 19 January, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 12 Comments

Cover of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. LewisThe Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis

This book is exactly what I reread Narnia for. Though it’s a blatant allegory (e.g. Aslan is Jesus, Edmund is Judas, the Emperor Over the Sea is the Christian God), it’s also a good story. Perhaps it helps that the story it’s based on is also a good one… In any case, there’s so much warmth in the narration, the way the narrator speaks to the reader and gently explains the characters’ faults and virtues. The scene with Mr Tumnus in his cave feels genuinely cosy, as does the scene with the Beavers. The treks through the snow feel genuinely freezing, and the slow dawning of spring feels like a breath of fresh air…

In other words, this book has some of the best of Lewis’ writing for children, in my opinion. The allegory doesn’t matter: I still care fiercely about Aslan, I still want Edmund to be redeemed. It mostly avoids being preachy. As with Uncle Andrew in The Magician’s Nephew, Edmund’s thought process makes sense, and he’s a more sympathetic character too.

I still don’t get the appeal of Turkish Delight, though.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – The Magician’s Nephew

Posted 13 January, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of The Magician's Nephew by C.S. LewisThe Magician’s Nephew, C.S. Lewis

When I planned a reread of the Narnia books, this isn’t one of the ones I was especially looking forward to. It’s so blatantly allegorical: it’s basically Genesis, Adam and Eve, etc. It’s preachy too, more so than my preferred Narnia books. As a myth on its own merit, I think it was Tolkien who complained about the mishmash of influences in Narnia, and he wasn’t wrong. It’s not so noticeable in The Magician’s Nephew, but it’s still a little weird. I think ultimately, I come down on the side of liking it; it’s a mess, but it’s a joyful one.

Diggory and Polly aren’t the most likeable characters, but Jadis makes an excellent villainess — and even Uncle Andrew’s weakness and vanity is well-drawn. The Pevensies are more engaging as heroes, but the villains here might just be the highlight.

Despite the allegory, there’s still something warm and engaging about Lewis’ writing. That’s the only reason this isn’t slipping down to two stars, I think.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Posted 31 December, 2016 by Nikki in Reviews / 6 Comments

Cover of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. LewisThe Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis

For a long time, this was definitely my uncontested favourite of the series, despite Eustace. It might still be. The preaching is more or less kept to a minimum, although as an adult I do notice it more: scolding of Lucy for wanting to be beautiful, Eustace’s Road to Damascus, Caspian’s scolding for selfishness, the punishment of Coriakin the Star, the supper at the end of the world, Reepicheep sailing off in his coracle like an Irish saint… But it’s so full of fascinating episodes that it’s hard to pay heed to that. Dufflepuds! Sea monsters! Dragons! To my mind, it has all the best of the Narnia books… although of course, none of it is actually set in Narnia.

Caspian, Lucy and Edmund are all appealing leads, and even Eustace gets better at it. I have to agree with Eustace on finding Reepicheep fairly self-righteous and irritating at times, though of course, he’s a good Mouse. And you’ve got to love the asides from the working crew and their perspective on the whole adventure.

Yep, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader remains highly enjoyable, despite its flaws. Honestly, I’d rather not think about the flaws.

Rating: 4/5

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 7 December, 2016 by Nikki in General / 4 Comments

It’s been a couple of weeks since I did this last because I’ve been so busy with assignments. Fortunately, I’ve had a bit more time to myself this week, so this feature is back!

What have you recently finished reading?

I’ve been rereading the Narnia books, so I just finished The Horse and his Boy. I read in chronological, rather than publishing order, so I’ve already read The Magician’s Nephew and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I still love the narration. Lewis managed to get something wonderfully warm into it, particularly in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and less so in some of the others. But it is so preachy. Partly just because of the target audience (kids) and writing style (somewhat didactic), but also because of the Christian overtones.

I actually spoke to someone recently who hadn’t figured out that Aslan = Jesus? I actually miss having that kind of innocence about the books, because knowing it’s an allegory and being able to identify all the various points with clear correspondences takes away some of the fun.

I’ve also been rereading Sarah Zettel’s Camelot books, though so far I’ve only finished Camelot’s Shadow. It’s probably my favourite of the four because it has the story of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle. There’s some minor typographical and editing issues that are driving me a little bit nuts in the UK editions. Like when Father is used as a name but not capitalised! But it’s a very interesting take on the Arthurian legends, even with the romances being the foreground. I love the fact that the matter of succession has been considered, and Gawain is openly being groomed to follow Arthur, while Guinevere has an active role in running Camelot, and… so on. I need to write my review, clearly.

What are you currently reading?

I’ve finished most of the books I have on the go at the moment. I’m partway through rereading Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas; hopefully, I’ll catch up with the series this time. I still feel the same about it as I did the first time. It’s fun, but it’s not nearly perfect.

Next up: Camelot’s Honour, Prince Caspian, Crown of Midnight…

What are you planning to read next?

After dropping my reading goals, I’m trying to find more joy in my reading again, so I’m doing quite a bit of rereading. I know I want to reread The Invisible Library and The Masked City, by Genevieve Cogman, so I can get round to reading the new one. I just got approved for the ARC! I also want to reread Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry trilogy, and Robin McKinley’s Sunshine, as well as finish rereading Sarah Zettel’s Camelot books, the Narnia books and of course, Tolkien’s The Return of the King.

I’m also trying not to plan too far ahead. I finish a book; I pick up the next one which makes me smile.

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Top Ten Tuesday

Posted 11 November, 2014 by in General / 28 Comments

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt from The Broke and the Bookish is “top ten characters you wish would get their own book”.

  1. Verity Farseer (Realm of the Elderlings, Robin Hobb). Or maybe his wife, Kettricken. Either way, they’re both great characters, I love the idea of “Sacrifice”, and I wish we’d seen more of Verity being awesome. I don’t think there’s really space for a Verity book in the series, and arguably his crowning achievements are in the Fitz books anyway, but for dreaming about, there’s all the time before Fitz is born, or the time Verity spends alone in the mountains before Fitz and company catch up.
  2. Faramir (Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien). I had the biggest literary crush on Faramir; I think he’s one of the strongest characters we see in Middle-earth. He’s as worthy as Aragorn in his way — both consciously resist the Ring — and he had pretty short shift from his father. He deserves more!
  3. Jane Drew (The Dark is Rising, Susan Cooper). Arguably Greenwitch is her book, but it’s so short! She’s the only girl in the Six, and it’d be great to see more of her.
  4. Susan Pevensie (The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis). She deserved more than being dismissed as too interested in “lipsticks and nylons”. As of The Last Battle, she’s still alive and there’s room for redemption or reinterpretation of what’s going on with her. I don’t think Lewis could ever have really handled her with subtlety, but you can dream…
  5. Ysanne (The Fionavar Tapestry, Guy Gavriel Kay). We only briefly see what Ysanne is like and get hints of her history. A story set entirely within Fionavar that ties up some of that would be lovely.
  6. Mel (Sunshine, Robin McKinley). There’s so much mystery around that character that was never resolved. It adds an interesting background to Sunshine, but I think everyone wants to know more about him.
  7. Jasper (A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula Le Guin). He’s just a plot element, really, to set Ged on his path. He vanishes out of the story and we never really know why he leaves Roke, whether he ever gains some redemption. He’s presented a little too simplistically — I want to know more, even though he’s not a pleasant character.
  8. Calcifer (Howl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones). Because Calcifer.
  9. Anafiel Delaunay de Montrève (Kushiel’s Dart, Jacqueline Carey). We know a little about his past, and enough about him to sketch in what we need to know, but I’d like to get to know the character close-up, rather than through Phèdre’s eyes.
  10. Prim (The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins). We see her through Katniss’ eyes, but it’d be fun to know what Prim’s thinking, what drives her — what little rebellions are in her, against Katniss and for her, as they’re growing up and Katniss is doing all this self-sacrificing. She’s presented as pretty much totally cute, but there’s gotta be more complex things going on.

What about you guys?

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Books that define me

Posted 20 December, 2013 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

I’ve talked about books I reread, and authors for whom I will read anything they produce, which must go some way towards helping even the casual reader get to know me. But when I was thinking about possible posts for this blog, I wandered off into thinking about books that I’d give people to help them understand me — not non-fiction books, which would be too easy, but the fiction books which have shaped me or given a voice to something in me.

So I’ve come up with a little list of five and some explanations; you may also see these as recommendations.

  • There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake, Hazel Edwards. If there’s a book that defines my whole childhood, I guess this is it. As far as I was concerned, there was a hippo on my roof too, and if there wasn’t, there should be. (And a giraffe in the garden.) My life is still filled with teddies, many of them hippos, and I keep a copy of this book in sight of my desk. And there’s still a hippopotamus on my roof, although sometimes now he worries about his weight, and trades in the cake for a diet of mushrooms. (Why mushrooms? That’s another story.)
  • The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien. I probably love The Lord of the Rings more than The Hobbit, but this is the book that enchanted me when I was a bit too old for Cat and Mouse or hippos on the roof. I could’ve read this endlessly, and often did. I remember one night when my parents were particularly determined to make me go to sleep, and I was equally determined not to, I read this book by the light of the streetlights down past the end of our garden, shining in just a little through my window. My imagination became full of dragons and trolls, and dwarves and gold, and wizards. And they’ve never left me either.
  • The Positronic Man, Isaac Asimov. Once upon a time, my mother got me some Asimov books out of the library on her account, because they wouldn’t let me into that section and I’d read everything they didn’t drag out of my clutching little hands. I have no idea what the library fine was when I finally allowed her to take this one back, but it’s fair to say it was probably the most epic fine I’ve ever wracked up — and I did manage some epic ones in university. I loved Andrew and his struggle to become human, and still do, even if I’d happily move the other way. Also, Andrew’s struggle for his rights, for the respect of the people around him, certainly speak to me now on a level I wasn’t aware of back then. I had no idea at that age that civil rights would become an issue for me, or that they were an issue for people like me.
  • The Dark is Rising, Susan Cooper. I didn’t read this until I was about fifteen, sixteen, despite what everyone expects when they see my battered to death copy. I reread it just about every year, around this time; it seriously got under my skin. It’s magic with consequences: Will is an adult and more than an adult in a child’s body; Bran is isolated, motherless, starving for love; the Drews grow up over the course of the books; John Rowlands loses the love of his life, learning that she’s not the woman he thought she was… Things don’t really come alright at the end. And, of course, it draws on some of my heritage, Welsh legends, and deals with some of the tensions between Welsh and English. And there are themes about racism and bigotry, and some amazing passages about all sorts of things from justice to Englishness to responsibility.
  • Among Others, Jo Walton. I read this and thought, this is me. Of all these books, if you want to get to know me, this is the most important. Sure, there are ways in which I’m very unlike Mori, but her love affair with books, her thirst for them, some of the Welsh/English issues going on, many of the things she’s dealing with… I recognise them. For Christmas, I gave each of my ex-housemates a copy of this book. On reading the back, they all mentioned the immediate parallels between me and Mori…

Honourable mentions go to Enid Blyton’s Tales of Brave Adventure (I owned two much-loved, faded copies: one my father’s, one my mother’s), C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books, and Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth.

And, perhaps surprisingly even to my mother, the old chapter-a-day retelling of the Bible for children which I had. I’m not a Christian, but I still think that a lot of the goodness in me, I learnt there.

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