Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Ranking The Chronicles of Narnia Books

It's not Christmas without a trip to Narnia in some form so this December I decided to go the whole hog and readthrough the entire septology of The Chronicles of Narnia. And just as I did for the Harry Potter series, I thought I'd give my ranking of the books. Everyone seems to have their own favourite Narnia adventure which I think acts as a testament to the consistency of the writing from CS Lewis and the childlike wonder that each book imbues in the reader, regardless of age. Let's have a look at how I've rated them...

7. Prince Caspian

Synopsis: The Pevensies are called back to Narnia to stop the evil King Miraz and put the rightful ruler, Prince Caspian, back on the throne.

Verdict: While it does introduce such favourite Narnia characters as Caspian himself and Reepicheep, the mouse with the heart of a lion, Prince Caspian is a bit of a re-tread of the plot of the first novel but with a less memorable villain. Still, I do really enjoy this book but for today at least it falls on the bottom of my list.

6. The Silver Chair

Synopsis: Eustace, with his new friend Jill, returns to Narnia to rescue Caspian's long-lost son Rilian from the clutches of the Lady of the Green Kirtle.

Verdict: The fourth book Lewis wrote, there is a touch of 'same old-same old' to The Silver Chair as the plot does somewhat recall Caspian, though there is still much to enjoy. That said, an interesting thing to note is how the children seem to have a tougher time of it than any others - only being given cryptic clues by Aslan and having a rough and tumultous journey across Narnia.

5. The Horse and His Boy 

Synopsis: Shasta the serving boy, runaway princess Aravis and their talking horses flee Calormene and journey to the free land of Narnia.

Verdict: The first of Lewis' flitting around Narnian history, this sidequel to the events of Lion feels rather different from the others, partly as it is the only one entirely set within the world with no link to our own. The quest/Prince and the Pauper-type plot is an entertaining one although the negative portrayal of the Middle-Eastern Calormenes makes for a slightly uncomfortable read nowadays.

4. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader 

Synopsis: Lucy, Edmund and their cousin Eustace join King Caspian on a journey across the seas to find the seven lost Lords of Narnia.

Verdict: While it is true of many of the Narnia books to some extent, Voyage feels more like a collection of smaller adventures rather than one cohesive whole, although this only adds to the charm. It also gains points for sporting the best opening line of a Narnia novel. Come on, everyone: "There was a boy called Eustance Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it."

3. The Last Battle

Synopsis: Eustace and Jill - and the rest of the Seven Friends of Narnia - have to save the Narnians from a cruel tyrant, Shift the talking Ape, and his false Aslan.

Verdict: A fitting and touching - some might say depressing - end for Narnia, although one that has proved endlessly controversial (poor Susan). Much of the usual Narnia jolliness is swapped for proper Old Testament apocalypse but this only makes it one of the most affecting literary finales out there.

2. The Magician's Nephew

Synopsis: Victorian children Digory and Polly travel to another world and witness the creation of a magical land called Narnia.

Verdict: The Christian allegory might be more on-the-nose than ever but The Magician's Apprentice (sorry, Nephew) is a delighful origins story for Narnia. Although a lot of it is played for laughs there is also the unexpected and tragic addition of Diggory's dying mother. It also features the return (sort of) of the White Witch who, as the greatest foe of Narnia, is always a plus.
1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe 

Synopsis: Four children discover a wonderful wintery land in their wardrobe - a place where they are destined to overthrow the despotic White Witch.

Verdict: This might seem like an obvious first choice but that is because it is simply the Narnia book. Lewis is at his best here, combining vivid fantasy with his friendly fourth-wall breaking prose and moral messages. A definitive tale of both children's fantasy and Christmas as a whole (probably only A Christmas Carol beats it).

And, if you're wondering, my ranking of the films goes much the same way as the books with Lion on top, then Voyage (though that one very liberally adapts the book - including adding an evil mist as the big bad) and Caspian. The best bits about them are probably the goreous visuals and the perfect casting of Liam Neeson's silky tones as Aslan and Tilda Swinton as the White Witch.

Also, if you're in a nostalgic mood this Christmas may I recommend a watch of the 1980s/90s BBC TV adaptations of the first four books. They may look quite cheap by today's standards but I've an eternal soft spot for them as it is thanks to them that I discovered the wonderful world of Narnia in the first place. Now, if you don't mind, I'm off to start reading thrm all over again...


  1. Lovely post Chalbo! Glad I could provide the reading material! :D

  2. Thank you! I should have added a footnote: 'Sponsered by Zygon Enthusiast.' :)


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