Book Review: The Magician’s Nephew – Book 1 of The Chronicles of Narnia

the-magicians-nephew

As a Boy

I was given a set of The Chronicles of Narnia as a kid, but failed to really enjoy them.  I began the series with The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and read a few of the books that followed it, but never finished.  I think my stopping point was about  halfway through The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  Honestly, I don’t remember enjoying the books that much, and that’s probably why I didn’t finish them.

Now, about 20 years later, a few things have changed.  For one, I’ve become more appreciative of the writings of C.S. Lewis as a whole.  Secondly, I’ve developed more of a taste for all-things-geek (e.g. fantasy stories such as The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, comic books, etc.).  And thirdly, I’m now very interested in the theological ramifications of Lewis’ writings.  I think Lewis was a genius, but I also know that his theology is seriously flawed in certain areas, and I guess you could say that I’m investigating.  So, I’ve begun reading and re-reading these books, mainly for entertainment, but also with a careful eye towards the content.

First Things First, or perhaps the reason I didn’t Like These Books As a Child

As beloved as The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is, it really should not be read as the first book in the series (as it often is).  Lewis intended for The Magician’s Nephew to be read first, and having now read both books, I agree that The Magician’s Nephew better sets up The Chronicles of Narnia as a whole.  I think it’s disappointing to begin The Chronicles of Narnia series with The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe because The Horse and His Boy, the book that follows, has such a drastic change in characters.  This change really puts a bad taste in the reader’s mouth, a reader who has developed somewhat of an attachment to the characters in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.  As a boy, I longed for more connection between the characters in the two books, and because of a perceived lack of cohesiveness, I think I lost interest in the series as a whole.  I would argue that reading The Magician’s Nephew as the first book in the series (as Lewis intended), prepares the reader for the drastic character changes that occur throughout the series, and in this way it leaves the reader anticipating rather than disappointed.

A Few Highlights

I’m preparing to write a review the entire Chronicles of Narnia series once I’ve completed all the books, so I’m not going to jump into too much detail here, but I do want to touch on one or two highlights in the book:

1) Lewis’ description of the creation of Narnia (and its obvious parallels to the Biblical account) is really quite breath-taking.  This is probably my favorite part of the book because it so brings to life the power and beauty of God.  Aslan (the Jesus figure in the series) walks too and fro over a darkened, formless earth, and sings the creation to life.  His song creates life and bursts forth with wonder and beauty.  This conception of the creation account really aids me in praising God and is probably closer to the actual truth than the sometimes sterile picture I create in my mind if I’m not careful.

2) Lewis’ perfectly captures the truth about spiritual blindness in this book.  The protagonist in The Magician’s Nephew is Digory, a young boy who visits other worlds through the magical powers of a set of rings.  Digory and his Uncle Andrew (along with a few others) witness the founding and creation of Narnia.  To Digory this is a wonderful experience, but to Digory’s uncle, it is a dreadful experience.  And Lewis, as narrator in the book, comments that “What you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing:  it also depends on what sort of person you are” (148).  This quote perfectly captures the truth of spiritual sight and spiritual blindness that we see in the Bible.  Those who have their eyes opened to the truth of God see evidences of His existence, and beauty, and goodness wherever they look; but those who don’t know God often see the exact opposite.  They see no evidence that He exists, or at best see evidence that He is in fact mean, selfish, and puny at best.  The difference between these two types of people is spiritual blindness.  Lewis perfectly captures this truth in The Magician’s Nephew as he compares Digory to Uncle Andrew.

One more quote

“They were terribly afraid it (Aslan) would turn and look at them, yet in some queer way they wished it would” (128).

More Chronicles of Narnia to come…

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