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Prince Caspian (The Chronicles of Narnia, Book 4) Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars

First, a note: the re-ordering of the Narnia series by the publisher should be ignored. It is utterly misguided, spoils some of the charm of the series, and makes no internal sense. Prince Caspian was the second Narnia book that C.S. Lewis wrote, not the fourth.

However, in reading the series to my son I chose to read Prince Caspian third - immediately after The Magician's Nephew. Which itself came after the true first book in the series, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

In many ways, this is the dullest book of the series. It lacks a true villain, unlike the White Witch or Queen Jadis; the only villains are the Telmarine nobility, and Lewis didn't make them particularly strong or interesting characters. There isn't even a hint of balance or tension. The villains have no way to overpower or overthrow Aslan. Once he shows up, the struggle and story are effectively over.

There are some lines which are remarkable for their unintended humor. The one that has really stuck with my son was "And the feasts on the poop and the musicians." Since the next book in the series, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, takes places mostly on board a ship with a poop deck, that line is being constantly quoted back to me every time the word "poop" comes up in the text (which is often) - invariably preceded and followed by a torrent of uncontrollable giggles. Coprophagy and cannibalism!

I must also admit that I found it difficult to read the line "...the Maenads who whirled her round in a merry dance and helped her take off some of the unnecessary and uncomfortable clothes she was wearing" while keeping a straight face. Lewis describes Bacchus and the Maenads as slightly naughty English madcaps and jackanapes, which is simply ridiculous to anyone who knows anything of Greek mythology. And of course Lewis' mixture of Greek and Christian mythology which so offended Tolkien is rather jarring, to put it mildly.

While still an excellent book, Prince Caspian is definitely the weakest and least interesting book of the Narnia series. Fortunately it's followed by one of the best books in the series.

One last note: although the movie that was made of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was relatively faithful to the book, the same can't be said of the movie of Prince Caspian. That movie is violently at odds with the book, so much so that my son complained often about the differences between the two (he much preferred the book, thank goodness). I'd urge anyone who loves the Narnia books to avoid the movie like the plague, but if you must let your children see it, be sure to read the book to them first. The filmmakers simply lifted the characters, the title, and a few plot elements from the book and then made a film that stole equally from Star Wars, the Lord of the Rings movies, and some sort of tawdry Spanish love story. Caspian is a child, not a hot-blooded teenage hunk bursting with passion, and the attraction between Susan and Caspian in the movie is simply wrong.


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