Once again, this book has more cynical tone than some of the earlier stories – but it is still most definitely a children’s book. The theme is deception and doubt, and the nature of Aslan is called into question. Aslan himself is apparently both silent and absent.
The story begins inside Narnia, as a greedy ape hatches a plan to make Narnia more civilized (because even in fiction, history teaches us nothing) using a fake Aslan to get his way. It works all too well, and within a few chapters the last king of Narnia, King Tirian (my first fictional crush – and I wouldn’t say I’m entirely over him yet) is imprisoned.
That is when two children from our world, Jill and Eustace, arrive to free him and – for better or worse – put their lives on the line in a desperate attempt to save the last remnants of goodness, imagination, and joy in Narnia as the Calormenes once more take over. This time, the lines between good and evil are blurred, and hope battles despair throughout.
This is the final battle, and it is the end. Many previous characters reappear, which is highly enjoyable for fans – but the losses of this book are greater than in the rest of the series. The joy of this book is greater, too, however. The first and the last books are a perfect framing device for the whole series.
Free sample (a good Calormene named Emeth is speaking):
“. . . my happiness is so great that it even weakens me like a wound. And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me Beloved, me who am but as a dog –”
“Eh? What’s that?” said one of the Dogs.
“Sir,” said Emeth. “It is but a fashion of speech which we have in Calormen.”
“Well, I can’t say it’s one I like very much,” said the Dog.
“He doesn’t mean any harm,” said an older Dog. “After all, we call our puppies boys when they don’t behave properly.”
“So we do,” said the first Dog. “Or girls.”
“S-s-sh,” said the older Dog. “That’s not a nice word to use. Remember where you are.”
Rating: PG. I’d call it absolutely G and safe for anyone, but one character is a close parallel to Jesus Christ (in one of the later books this character clearly states that he exists on Earth as well, is known by a different name there, and that the children have been brought into Narnia so that they can more easily recognise him on Earth), and some atheists have found that offensive. The books do focus on the adventures, rather than allegory about 95% of the time.