The Magician’s Nephew – C. S. Lewis

NARNIA…where the woods are thick and cold, where Talking Beasts are called to life…a new world where the adventure begins.

Digory and Polly meet and become friends one cold, wet summer in London. Their lives burst into adventure when Digory’s Uncle Andrew, who thinks he is a magician, sends them hurtling to…somewhere else.

I wrote a brief overview of the Narnia chronicles years ago, and have been wandering in that world again of late.  This time I plan to review each book, and it seems that my overall view of the series have changed over the years.

Although written as the sixth book in the Chronicles of Narnia, The Magician’s Nephew can be read first as it explains the beginnings of and explores the key aspects of the series.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a stronger starting place for the series, The Magician’s Nephew however, is a mixed bag and doesn’t feel as natural, it also assumes you have read the former work which can be a bit annoying at times, if you haven’t yet done so.

The rings with which the adventures starts feel a bit out of place in this universe, as a device they veer more to the sci-fi but this is however juxtaposed with the dangers of technology so that does work in its way.  For this reader though, it does feel somewhat forced.

The creation scenes are perfectly fine, very biblical as you would expect from Lewis, but the standout scene is without doubt, Charn, the world is atmospheric, and its history is a cautionary tale, and sinister to boot. I would have liked to know more about Charn as it feels like it has more depth Narnia manages to get throughout the books.

Overall this isn’t one of the best books in the series but does a decent job of keeping the reader entertained, even if the lack of subtlety when it comes to explaining its Christian views is non-existent,  In fact I would go so far as to say that the lack of depth goes against it. The story is still decent but there is much better to come.

Looking at or thinking of these books always makes me hum the wonderful old BBC theme tune that used to be synonymous with Sunday teatime.

25 Replies to “The Magician’s Nephew – C. S. Lewis”

    1. We are doing alright, we have more freedoms here than back in Ph so we are keeping fit and spending time trying to do creative things when we get some time. I hope all is well with you and yours?

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  1. I read “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” when I was 12 or 13, but I was already acquiring that thin veneer of civilization of the anti-religious kind that makes youngsters scoff at sincerely expressed religious belief, and I never read the rest of the series. Somehow, after the depth of “The Lord of the Rings,” I suspect that I would find Narnia too thin in a different way. I doubt now that I will ever read it, but I suspect that I might have liked it at a younger age, if I hadn’t been too busy scoffing.

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    1. There is more depth of history to Middle Earth than there is to Narnia. What I like about Narnia is that does give off a feel of oldness, as the books go on, but also manages to change the protagonists and such. My main gripe with The Magician’s Nephew was that there could have been a more imaginative way of recreating the obvious themes, it seems lazy to stick biblical things amongst a book full of imagination.

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  2. I’ve never read the series. Although I was raised Catholic, I’ve never really found books with religious themes for children to be fairly heavy-handed. It feels too didactic to be enjoyable. I just tried reading A Wrinkle in Time and couldn’t finish it. I just discovered that Philip Pullman based His Dark Materials series (Golden Compass is the first in the trilogy) on Paradise Lost. So I may have to give that a go. He says he doesn’t hit the reader over the head with morals, so I may enjoy it.

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    1. I had started a sentence one way in my above comment and finished it from another direction. I meant that “I’ve never found books for religious themes for children to be captivating because they’re so heavy-handed.”

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      1. I triedHis Dark Materials but only read the first book, I didn’t really grab me, although I have been looking to give Paradise Lost a go at some point in the future, like so many other books. Narnia has its charms, and I do love aspects of the series, as a child a lot of the themes were probably lost on me and maybe that helped my enjoyment. I am reading all the books in the series at the moment and I am enjoying them more. The Genesis theme of this book is what makes it a struggle, as the reader is hit over the head with all the similarities.

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  3. I read this some years ago, but can’t remember much about it – except (I think) Digory and Polly climbing through the roof spaces. I do love The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe though, and can’t count the number of times I’ve watched the movie as well 🙂

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    1. The next book is a lot stronger but I did quite like the sci fi stuff in this, even if it felt a bit jarring knowing how the rest of the books feel.

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    1. It is a shame it isn’t up to the standard of The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe but it is worth getting copy from the library just for the good bits.

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  4. I agree that the book is heavy-handed – extremely so, compared with The Lion… – but I always read it first when doing a re-read of the series. It is also interesting to see how CSL thought the whole Narnia world began; or at least his thoughts in 1955. I wonder how quickly he wrote it and if he ever edited it thoroughly. Did he ever regret his handling of the subject matter? Some aspects of the novel are good – Charn, the visit of the witch to London and a few others, but it is an uneven book. It isn’t a good introduction to the series; The Lion … is the only book that introduces the whole concept of Narnia and is the best of the series as a stand-alone novel.

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    1. Before I stated rereading I did take time toconsider if I wanted to read it in order of publication or chronology, I plumped for getting it out of the way in the end so I didn’t have it looming over my reading enjoyment. Your questions are interresting, I wonder if there is a book of collected letter which may shed light on the matter.

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      1. Yes, that would be interesting.
        1 hour later… I have just had a look through my CS Lewis book collection and can’t find anything particularly relevant to this topic, except – when he began The Lion… he had no idea that he would be writing a series of books or that people would see the whole series as an attempt at allegory. He also hadn’t planned what would happen to Aslan; that just evolved as he wrote. He wanted to write a book that was a story first and foremost but also wanted to see what sort of Incarnation and redemption would be appropriate in a place like Narnia. Apparently, he was always eager to have everything he wrote published which hasn’t always served him well. He wasn’t bothered about the inconsistencies in his writing, either. His letters have been published and all his talks on radio etc have also been published at some time. Interestingly, a book has been published by Michael Ward “Planet Narnia: the seven heavens in the imagination of C S Lewis” in which he discusses how each book is ‘coloured and shaped by the imagery associated with a particular astrological sign’. This provides ‘an overall key to their symbolism’. I am quoting from Rowan William’s ‘The Lion’s World’. When he had finished the series, C S Lewis wanted his readers to start with The Magician’s Nephew but it appears that most people like to read them in the order they were written in.

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        1. I appreciate the research, the astrological shine is really interesting, it is a bit late to be reading into this as I am half way through The Silver Chair but it will be diverting to keep an eye out.

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  5. I always mean to read more C S Lewis, and really should complete these Chronicles some time. Have you read much of his wider work?

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    1. I read The Screwtape Letters years ago and don’t remember much of it, we have a copy of something or other back in Ph too, although I don’t recall tht title of that. I will be reviewing all the other books in the series at some point, I stopped for a few weeks after The Voyage of the Dawntreader, I really need to get back on with reading again.

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  6. I have to tell you, although I enjoyed THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE, I was never blown away by it…just a few spots that truly got to me emotionally or satisfied my imagination :-/

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