For whatever reason, I’ve never really liked this book. Part of it, I think, is that I often stopped with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, as a kid — I couldn’t quite tell you why, except maybe that nothing could match up to how much I loved that book. When I try to be objective, I can see that it’s really no different in quality to the others… and Puddleglum is hilarious! But I persist in disliking Eustace and Jill, and I feel like Rillian is a complete non-entity.
It’s probably also that I really dislike Caspian being old and no longer really a part of things. Okay, the bit at the end helps with that, but still… I’m just not keen on the whole tone of this book: Eustace and Jill are always arguing, Puddleglum is always fatalistic, and Rillian starts off rather patronising and awful (albeit because of the spell). There’s not much of Aslan, and not much faith in Aslan. It feels like Jill in particular doesn’t really understand who he is and why she should obey him, and that changes things rather.
In the end, it’s quite possible I’m making excuses, but… still not one I enjoy, I’m afraid!
In their third outing, Veronica Speedwell and Revelstoke Templeton-Vane (better known simply as Stoker) have to unravel the mystery of a mummy’s curse, to salvage what’s left of Stoker’s reputation. That means hunting for the man who stole Stoker’s wife, dealing with said wife (who turns out to be a real piece of work, the clues about which I felt like I’d missed), and figuring out what exactly is going wrong with the exhibition of the funerary goods of an Egyptian princess. As with the previous two books, it’s a lot of fun, and I read it almost in one go.
The main draw for me is Veronica and Stoker’s relationship. They’re delightfully volatile, and yet you know it’s because they’re alike and are good for one another. Veronica’s unbelievable, of course, but taking that as read I just relax into it. Of course she can do more or less anything, and faces very little censure. Why not? Anyway, now these books are very much about the will-they-won’t-they for me, and I can’t say they made as much progress as I hoped — though at least more of Stoker’s past has been revealed!
The mystery was fun enough; I can’t resist a bit of Egyptological jiggery-pokery, I have to confess. I did work things out ahead of the reveals, in most cases, but it still worked for me. It’s not about the result, but how you get there, and Veronica and Stoker do it in style.
This is probably still my favourite book of the series. Lucy and Edmund get drawn back into Narnia, with the unfortunate addition of a rather odious cousin, Eustace. They’re delighted to find themselves on board ship with Caspian, sailing to the end of the world; Eustace is rather less delighted. There are various little episodic adventures as they face mysteries and horrors, searching for seven lost Narnian lords who were sent away by Caspian’s usurping uncle.
I think my favourite part is probably the island of Coriakin and the Monopods; not for all the stuff with the Monopods, really, but because of the book of spells Lucy has to read from. It sounds amazing and the smell from it sounds delicious… and there must be some really cool spells in there. I also enjoy that it gives Lucy a little more depth — instead of her faults being a little childishness, she almost gives way to jealousy and spite. I loved her as a kid, probably because I wanted to be her, and so it’s nice to find her a little more rounded than I remembered.
The stuff at the very end about the lamb and Aslan’s Country and so on was all a little much for me, after most of the rest (apart from the rescue from the Island Where Dreams Come True) felt just fantastical. I think that’s part of why I loved the book the most as a kid; it touched on some of the strangeness and beauty of Narnia. Dragons and sea-serpents and mysterious pools that turn anything to gold, oh my!
Good evening, folks! It’s been a busy reading week around here, with the readathon today boosting my read count a little (okay, and short books helped there too). And I haven’t bought any books this week, though I’ve been putting together a preorder or so!
–WWW Wednesday.Chatting about Digging Up Armageddon and my Narnia reread!
–24-Hour Readathon. I decided to take part again on a whim. I’ve read 3.3 books so far and there’s a bunny pic at that post… *tempts*
Prince Caspian follows a new hero, son of the last true king of Narnia, raised by his usurping uncle… and now struggling to the throne. Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy are called back from our world to help him, while Aslan is at work re-awakening dryads and bringing Old Narnia back to life. It’s always been a highlight of the series for me — perhaps because in some ways Caspian is a favourite, because he struggles to win Narnia (rather than just bringing about the victory through lion-ex-machina; alright, Peter wins a great battle, and Caspian is also ultimately aided by Aslan, but he has a difficult campaign first).
I wish Susan were treated with as much sympathy later as she is in this book; here her fears and doubts are understood, whereas in The Last Battle she’s rather dismissed. Not that I enjoy Susan, but sometimes I rather fear I would be like her: grousing and complaining while in Narnia, doubting when I’ve seen the proof before with my own eyes. Both she and Edmund are usually more believable than Peter or Lucy, who find it easy to be good and to believe in Aslan.
In any case, Prince Caspian pretty much stands up to the memories for me. The thing that’s weird to me is how full and busy these books seemed to be, whereas if I try to sketch out the timeline of each book now, woooow the resolution comes at you fast.
Impulsive decision! I will take part in the 24-Hour Readathon tomorrow! I will not in fact be reading for 24 hours, alas: one, I’ve learnt that my sleep is too important to lose, so that’s 7-8 hours gone already, and two, I have work. But when I’m not doing other pre-scheduled things, I will try to read.
A speculative reading pile:
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (C.S. Lewis) [reread]
The Silver Chair (C.S. Lewis) [reread]
The Last Battle (C.S. Lewis) [reread]
The Steerswoman (Rosemary Kirstein) [reread]
Network Effect (Martha Wells)
Digging Up Armageddon (Eric Cline)
A Treacherous Curse (Deanna Raybourn)
Think of England (K.J. Charles)
That’s probably enough to be going on with… and goodness knows I’m likely to pick whatever I feel like in the moment, which means I could end up reading almost anything.
Anyone else taking part?
Aaand it’s time:
13:37: I’m starting off with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, with the help of one very cuddly bunny…
And here’s the opening survey:
1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? I’m in sunny(!?) South Yorkshire, UK. 2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? Actually, it might be The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, because it’s so cosy and familiar. But Network Effect is pretty exciting too! 3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? I don’t particularly have snacks lined up, but dinner will be pasta carbonara and that will be tasty. 4) Tell us a little something about yourself! My hair is supposed to be bright turquoise but it always fades to this green. If anyone’s a hairdresser or very experienced with dyeing hair, feel free to advise me on how to dye over it with my natural darkish brown! (I love my turquoise hair, but I leave it to hairdressers. And I have plans for my post-lockdown hair that mean going back to my natural colour anyway.) 5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? I’ve participated before but not for a while, because I don’t do well without sleep or with feeling obligated to sit down and read specific books. So I’m gonna be super flexible, and sleep plenty.
15:01: There, finished my first book. Not sure what next… but probably The Steerswoman, as long as Lisa doesn’t mind me getting on and finishing it without her!
16:15: I ended up reading The Silver Chair, and I’m finished with that. Now it’s work time, for around an hour!
18:07: I did an hour’s work and then I finished up The Steerswoman! I put A Treacherous Curse on today’s to-do list for the next book, so… maaaaybe that next? 2h35m reading, so far.
19:25: I’m about 30% of the way through A Treacherous Curse! Then I stopped for a stretch to admire my wife’s tidying efforts. It’s time for me to do some blog stuff now, and then probably dinner, and then back to reading as long as I still feel like it.
21:46: I’m now about 60% of the way through A Treacherous Curse, and I’ve read 3h49m in total.
22:53: It’s bedtime soon, but I did finish A Treacherous Curse! 4h35m reading in total, and four books read. Not bad, though two were short and I was already 60% of the way through The Steerswoman!
10:26: Well, I’ve slept and done my morning’s work, and now I’m going to start on Martha Wells’ Network Effect.
11:27: I read for half an hour and then got a bit fidgety — I’m only 14% of the way through the book, and I’m being so fidgety about books lately that “long” books daunt me… even when I love them. I’m going to see if I can settle for another reading stint, though!
Compared to prior readathons, this one has been really quiet in terms of interaction for me, though. It doesn’t really feel like as much of a community event. I miss that.
12:04: I got more into that reading session! 29% of the way through Network Effect now. I think I’m going to take a short break to do some of my to-do list for the day, and then rejoin for the last half hour.
12:47: I didn’t get back to it, so that leaves me at a total of four books finished, and 5h25m of reading. That’s a lot more than I’ve been managing lately, so yay!
Leo Page is, in the simplest terms, a spy. He’s sent to a sleepy English village that could come right out of Agatha Christie’s novels, where he meets a young doctor with PTSD who (coincidentally, even though I half-expected this to become relevant) knows a little about who he is and what he does because he patched him up under secretive conditions during World War II. The story is both about solving the mystery, and also about unravelling who Leo wants to be.
I felt that James (the doctor) is rather less developed than Leo; we see his PTSD and his eagerness to love and be loved, yes, but we don’t really see him finding any peace with the PTSD or settling into himself as he could be. There’s plenty of room for that in sequels, though! What we do see is Leo’s development as he slowly becomes sure that, actually, he’s done with being a spy and directly or indirectly dealing death. It takes him time to realise that and time to decide that a life with James is worth a try.
In terms of the romance between the two, there’s a happy-for-now at the end of the book, but it’s something I could see being shaken by future books — they’re not secure in one another yet.
The mystery… eh, I was less interested in that, I’ll admit. It’s weird reading a book with such modern sensibilities and then also reading an Agatha Christie mystery, really. On that level, this fell down a bit for me, not helped by the fact that (as was traditional for Golden Age crime fiction) the victims were both unlikeable. The character of Wendy causes a certain amount of mystification, and I found her a little too much; a little too clever, a little too omnipresent, a little too obvious.
That’s really a small quibble, though it doesn’t sound it: I was here for James and Leo. Their sexual connection doesn’t boil off the page, but there are several lovely moments of intimacy which I rather prefer.
It’s that time again! How is it Wednesday already? Check out Taking On A World Of Words to chat with everyone else who has posted what they’re reading right now!
What are you currently reading?
Fiction: I’m rereading the Narnia books. They’re just such a warm childhood thing, I couldn’t resist. I’m onto Prince Caspian at the moment, and a little annoyed I don’t think I can finish it up before bed. Then it’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which in memory is my absolute favourite forever. I wonder if it still holds up! I’m also still reading Laura Lam’s Goldilocks, and currently going “yessss science” about Naomi figuring out what’s up with her algae.
Non-fiction: I’m still reading Digging up Armageddon. It’s still doing waaaay too much gossiping about the archaeologists, and not talking enough about the archaeology, which is sad.
What have you recently finished reading?
Other than the Narnia books before this in the series, I read Love Around the Corner by Sally Malcolm. Cute, though the misunderstanding stuff is normally a turn-off for me. Another book in the series is actually also on Kindle Unlimited, so I might give that a whirl!
What will you be reading next?
Once I’ve finished rereading the Narnia books, I’m pretty much planning on plunging into a reread of the Earthsea books, in the lovely collected and illustrated version. Other than that, it’s anybody’s guess as always. I feel like I should be reading books that people have gifted me… but I’m trying very hard to ignore feeling like I “should” read this, that, or any other thing. I think most people who’ve gifted me books understand that I’m also getting happiness from having them in my TBR waiting for me!
The Horse and His Boy is the third book in the Narnia sequence, chronologically, and that’s the way I’ve always read the books. It was one of my favourites as a child: Calormene was so different to Narnia, and Aravis is so badass, and there’s so much adventure!
As an adult, it kind of felt a bit hollow, though… it feels like an afterthought: most of it doesn’t even happen in Narnia, and the events aren’t super-significant to Narnia as a country. It does give a bit more depth and breadth to the world, insofar as you find that rings true, but it’s also a mess in terms of yanking stuff from real-world cultures and demonising the fictional result (to some degree or another — I acknowledge that the existence of Aravis makes it more complex, and e.g. Lasaraleen isn’t actually terrible as a person).
It’s still a fun adventure, and there are some lovely descriptions… and I wish there was more of the Hedgehog and the Rabbit and the other talking animals Shasta meets when he arrives in Narnia, to be honest. The dwarves he was staying with get rather dropped, despite their kindness to and care for him!
Alas, though, I think this one I’ve just sort of grown out of, on the whole.
The second book of Narnia is perhaps the most famous: Lucy Pevensie walks through a wardrobe and finds herself in a mysterious land, shrouded in snow, and she and her three siblings get drawn into a deathly struggle against the Witch — that same Witch who entered Narnia at its very beginning in The Magician’s Nephew. In many ways this is a favourite, even if it totally lies about Turkish delight being tasty, and despite the heavy-handedness of the allegory.
This time, I couldn’t help but notice the little details that delight me: the titles of the books in Mr Tumnus’ cave, Mrs Beaver wanting to take her sewing machine on the run, the descriptions of the onrush of spring after winter is defeated. I do cringe a little at the bit about Father Christmas, though — it totally breaks the mood for me, though most of Lewis’ other mixing and matching of legend and mythology doesn’t bother me.
In the end, of course, Aslan sacrifices himself for Edmund, who is really a stupid human boy who has barely grown up… and actually, the allegory here works really well for me. Religion is a complicated subject for many, and I don’t really want to get into the personal stuff here, but the way it demonstrates the story of the crucifixion (and of why Jesus died) is really well done, in my books. It’s not just about Aslan sacrificing himself for Edmund, necessary to the prophecy as he is: as a child, that’s all I really saw (despite understanding the allegory), but this time it made me think of the fact that Christianity says Jesus sacrificed himself for everyone, petty and childish and ignorant about the world as we are.
I don’t like to pick Narnia apart too much, because in terms of worldbuilding and consistency and so on, it doesn’t bear much picking at. But that part worked for me, this time in particular.
It’s sort of surprising how quickly these books are over, reading them as an adult. They took up such a large chunk of my imagination as a kid, it felt like they were huge. But there are still worlds to be found here, even as an adult.