I recently read “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis once again and enjoyed my return trip to Narnia after several years. I decided to go ahead and continue the adventure by diving into “Prince Caspian” and again returning to that magical land.
Not too long after their first adventure in Narnia, at least in Earth years, the four children are once again drawn back into Narnia. What Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy find there is much different than they remember for years have passed in Narnia and the land has been conquered by a group of humans called the Telmarines. The Telmarines are afraid of the old Narnians and have done their best to destroy the lands original inhabitants. The former kings and queens of Narnia find that much of what they built has been destroyed and the old ways of the world have been largely lost.
Prince Caspian is the heir to the Telmarine throne and is interested in the ways of the Narnians. His uncle, who is acting as king until Caspian becomes an adult, has actively sought to repress or destroy any of the native Narnians and their ways and plots to kill Caspian so that he can remain the king forever. When Caspian sneaks away from the castle and joins a band of rebels that consists of talking animals, dwarves, and a giant, the war is on for control on Narnia. As the Telmarines appear to have the upper hand, only the four original kings and queens of Narnia can save the day with the help of Aslan, of course.
“Prince Caspian” is the second book in “The Chronicles of Narnia” and is probably the weakest book in the series. Lewis almost seemed to force the children from “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” into the story as they do not really serve much of a purpose in the story. They are simply a means to connect this book with the first book as well as to further their interaction with Aslan which ends up being largely repetitive. Some of the themes that readers find most annoying about the Narnia books are present here, such as the pervasive imagery that seems to be taken straight from the Bible with Aslan substituted for Jesus (which does not bother me except in that it does not really flow with the story but again just seems forced in to suit the author’s purpose) and the overbearing theme of conflict between children and adults, so much so that they are a distraction to the story. The flow of the story is also choppy at times as the children from Earth are forced into the story and the tale is told in pieces, moving back and forth between the children and Caspian, rather than as a smoothly flowing narrative.
With all of that being said, “Prince Caspian” is still a good, short novel. While it lacks the originality and the sense of wonderment of the first book, there is still enough of that vibe here to make the story appealing. In fact, there is a lot to like in this story such as the continuing development of the world of Narnia and its mythology as well as some interesting new characters. The choices that Lewis make in writing the story, however, turn what could have been a great story into just a good one. If this had been a straightforward tale of Prince Caspian and his rise to power without the interference of the original kings and queens into the story, it would have been that much stronger. I wish that Lewis would have chosen to tell it this way and could even have brought in the children from the first book toward the end to celebrate with Caspian, but that is not the choice that the author made. In any regard, “Prince Caspian” does further the Narnia series and provides more insight into that world which lay just beyond ours. I recommend reading this book and introducing it to young readers just as I would with any books in this series.