Friday, October 19, 2012

Book Review - The Silver Chair

In The Silver Chair we return to Narnia with Eustace Scrubb (the tag-along cousin of the Pevensie's in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader). Some time has passed since Dawn Treader and Eustace is at a boarding school. As the book begins, he's just run across a classmate Jill Pole who's crying after being bullied. They are commiserating together about how awful school is and how nice it would be to get away. Eustace starts romanticizing his times in Narnia and before long the two children want to go there. At the same time, the group of bullies is rapidly approaching to continuing their bullying efforts. They find themselves cornered by a door that is always locked. In desperation they try the handle, and it is surprisingly unlocked…and whisks them away to Narnia.

Like the previous books, Eustace and Jill are a bit disoriented and unsure of their location upon arriving. In this instance, they aren't in the kingdom of Narnia but rather high high high up in the kingdom of Aslan Himself. This introduction to the world seemed more unique than some of the other entrances to this mystical land. Eustace and Jill find themselves perched on a cliff so high that they aren't entirely sure what they're looking at below them. They encounter Aslan and are given a quest before being blown off (quite literally) to the kingdom of Narnia.

Aslan gives the children a quest to find and return the long lost prince. We learn that the prince is the son of Prince Caspian from the previous two adventures. Eustace is a little dismayed that he didn't get to talk to Caspian and he's also surprised to find that Caspian is now an old man on the verge of death. We learn that the prince went missing after seeking revenge for his mother's death. Many quests were undertaken to find him, but years later there has been no success.

The children seek allies to help in their quest and are guided into the company of a Marsh Wiggle named Puddleglum. I loved the character of Puddleglum. First of all, the Marsh Wiggle creature characteristics are fun in themselves just physically. As a character Puddleglum is a lot of fun because of his personality and the way he interacts with everything. To some degree, he seems to be the eternal pessimist, always imagining the worst possible outcomes to any situation. At the same time, he often finds the most realistic perspective (once you shave away some of the more unlikely scenarios). He also has a bravery and insight that really helps the kids out along the way.

As part of their instructions, Aslan provided certain signs that would help them on their way. They continually "muff up" finding or recognizing the signs until it's too late. Naturally this makes the adventure a lot more interesting, but it certainly frustrates matters for the group.

As the kids encounter various people, creatures and clues along their way most of the time I found the encounters to be fairly predictable (even though the kids and Puddleglum didn't immediately jump to the obvious conclusion). Still, the encounters were pretty fun. There were a lot of different elements and adventures throughout the story. Each new area was unique and interesting.

I found it interesting that we make our way almost to the very end of the book before we come upon the source of the title…theSilver Chair. While it played a key element in the story, I really would like to have had a little more development of the Chair. To learn more about it. To perhaps have found another object, weapon or item that used the same magic as the Chair. I really found it to be very interesting. I also loved the final confrontation with the witch. That whole scene was lightly suspenseful and creepy the way she wrapped them in her spell.

After the successful conclusion of the adventure, I was a little surprised at the sort of postlogue encounter with Aslan and Caspian. As far as the plot of the story, it was completely unnecessary, but it did provide the author with a chance to expand his allegorical allusions. I felt like the God allegories for Aslan were more heavy handed than they'd been in previous books. Granted, there were some pretty overt situations in the earlier books as well, but this time it felt like Lewis was pulling the curtain back even a little farther in case you didn't happen to catch on earlier. He doesn't explicitly say anything overly religious, but the allegory felt even more straightforward to me in this book than it had in the earlier novels.

I really enjoyed this story. As I said, I found a number of the elements to be predictable and I would liked to have seen some elements (especially the Chair) to have been developed a bit more. But overall, this was a lot of fun. I especially loved the characterizations in this book, particularly Puddleglum. They were super fun.

This is a great addition to the Narnia adventures and makes me look forward to the conclusion in The Last Battle.

4 out of 5 stars

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Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The Silver Chair was the darkest of the seven books. Shame they botched the last two movies - we'll never see this one on the big screen.

Okie said...

Yeah, I was thinking the same thing (about the darker tone) but since I haven't yet read the last book, I figured I'd withhold judgment. It is a shame that we won't see a big budget production anytime soon. This has a lot of very cool elements.

Granted, if Hollywood keeps up the way they've been going, we may see another Narnia reboot in a decade or so. Who knows. :)

Brian Miller said...

i need to reread this one...i dont remember it much..i do remember the darkness...and would agree on the need to develop the chair from what i remember...