Ossus Library Index
Fantasy Index


A novel by C.S. Lewis
(2005, Harper Collins [first published in 1950])

The Chronicles of Narnia, book 4

A return to Narnia centuries in the future shows that it has been overrun, so the four children must win a battle to reclaim it in the name of the talking animals and moving trees.


-- First reading (paperback)
April 17th to May 6th, 2020


I enjoyed the history of Caspian as a child-Prince in Narnia under his uncle’s rule, but when we returned to the four English children, the story got long and tedious. The resolution of the conflict was done the only way possible without a drawn-out battle, I guess, but was disappointing, and when Aslan appeared, people just started behaving strangely.

Spoiler review:

The book can be split into three parts: the arrival of the four kids from England, the history of Caspian, and the battle for Narnia. The first was okay but not that interesting, while the second was very intriguing and interesting, but the third was more of a letdown.

The kids are pulled back in to Narnia, but hundreds of years have passed, such that Narnia has been overrun, the trees no longer dance, and the talking animals have gone into hiding on the border of Archenland. They arrive at Cair Paravel, which has been long abandoned and is crumbling. The explore the island a bit, finding their apple orchard has taken over, and then going down to the treasury, where they find their old armor. As they explore the coast, searching for a way to the mainland, they spot a dwarf being brought out into the river to be drowned, and they rescue him. I liked the way Susan was such a great shot with the bow, even after all this time. I wish she’d been used more.

When the dwarf finds out who they are, he is skeptical, but tells them the history of the last few days in Narnia, and about Caspian. The history of Caspian is told from the narrator’s point of view, rather than in quotes from the dwarf, so it takes on an epic form, but we are left to wonder how such a takeover could have happened. But even if Caspian’s ancestors were more of less benign, Caspian’s uncle is not. He’s been actively destroying the magic of the land, and denying the truth of the talking animals and Aslan, and has taken over the realm politically, killing Caspian’s father and usurping the boy’s power. But Caspian’s teachers tell him the stories of the past, and he falls in love with the old Narnia. This doesn’t sit well with his uncle, who replaces one teacher with another, but with the same effect. This lasts until Miraz’ wife has a son, after which Caspian’s life is forfeit, and he runs away.

The story in the castle was one of intrigue and felt magical, as Caspian learns the forbidden history of the land. I liked his trips to the astronomy tower, as well as his thirst for knowledge and fairness. When he arrives among the animals near Archenland, things started to degrade a bit, as he is introduced to various animals as their savior. Some, like the mice, were fun, but others like the bears and even the dwarfs, were too childish in nature to be interesting of believable. Eventually, they call everybody together to form a ragtag army, which takes refuge near the forest at Aslan’s How, the old place where the Stone Table stood. As they continue losing the battle against Miraz’s forces, Caspian sounds Susan’s old horn, which is what causes them to be pulled into Narnia, and sends out ambassadors searching for the old Kings and Queens and Aslan. One of these is captured and sent to dworn out near the “haunted castle” of Cair Paravel, and that’s where the kids rescue him.

I find the timeline confusing, as it’s only been a couple of days, or so it seems, since Caspian left the castle, and it feels like it should be a lot longer, that he should have been fighting for months before he was brought to the last stand. Regardless, the animals and Caspian both are terrible at fighting a war, and it seems that though he doesn’t have any enemies, Miraz has kept his army well trained, so maybe it’s not that much of a surprise.

It takes forever for the kids to get from Cair Paravel to Aslan’s How, even though they thought they knew a way to get there quickly by going up the river. But the land has changed, and they get lost. I think it’s all about trusting Aslan, as Lucy sees him guiding them one way, but she’s overruled and they go another way. It’s not clear that the others don’t believe in Aslan, but they think they know better from their experience. I believe the point is that they should have trusted in their god-figure, even though he only appeared for a very brief moment to one person. The problem is always that there is a human element, and nobody can be absolutely sure it wasn’t a trick of her eyes But in the end, Lucy was right, and as a result of their doubts, nobody else can see Aslan for a significant period of time. But the whole sequence was dull and boring, and I couldn’t wait for it to end.

Hearing the boys listening to Caspian’s advisors, some of whom advocate resurrecting the Witch, was tedious and annoying, as a lot of the tension could have been avoided if they’d just walked in.

The girls, meanwhile, witness the awakening of the dryads and the trees. There is an extremely strange sequence where the dryads and some other unknown people come out of nowhere, with no explanation, and hold a party. Not only was this completely mind-boggling in origin, it’s incomprehensible on the night when Caspian is being surrounded by enemies.

But it doesn’t really matter, because the enemy has paused. They’re taking up positions way downriver when Caspian’s forces are known to be at Aslan’s How, but are no longer attacking. Peter sends a challenge to Miraz for single combat, which the king is stupid enough to accept. But it seems they are evenly matched, and Miraz only loses through treachery in his own entourage. It seems that nobody liked Miraz, so they are happy to overthrow him. In the end, however, the trees help rout the enemies, and they are imprisoned in a town called Beruna.

Then Aslan walks the human towns, and people come out either amazed or angry. The angry ones are sent away through a portal, while the ones who profess immediate love for Aslan are allowed to stay. I don’t understand why this is necessary. Aslan himself is too powerful a character if he can cause this kind of division just by walking around. The question then is why he doesn’t stick around, so these kinds of things don’t happen all the time. I guess he has other lands to visit, but that’s not how it seems.

It happens that the Telmarines are descended from pirates on Earth who found their way through a portal to Narnia long ago. I was disappointed that they weren’t from one of the other lands seen in the forest of The Magician’s Nephew.

Still, the story was interesting enough when dealing with the history of the Telmarines and Caspian himself. The English family itself was tedious, but I liked the single combat. In all, I’m not too impressed with this aspect of the Narnia series, but I’m willing to continue to the end.


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