Quick Review (read on for full review)
Some enchanting descriptions mixed with some memorable and profound passages make this book worth a read, and sets up the next book, the most famous of The Chronicles of Narnia, perfectly. 3 / 5
Summary (from Goodreads)
When Digory and Polly are tricked by Digory’s peculiar Uncle Andrew into becoming part of an experiment, they set off on the adventure of a lifetime. What happens to the children when they touch Uncle Andrew’s magic rings is far beyond anything even the old magician could have imagined.
Hurtled into the Wood between the Worlds, the children soon find that they can enter many worlds through the mysterious pools there. In one world they encounter the evil Queen Jadis, who wreaks havoc in the streets of London when she is accidentally brought back with them. When they finally manage to pull her out of London, unintentionally taking along Uncle Andrew and a coachman with his horse, they find themselves in what will come to be known as the land of Narnia.
‘Ah, but when I looked at that dust (I took jolly good care not to touch it) and thought that every grain had once been in another world – I don’t mean another planet, you know; they’re part of our world and you could get to them if you went far enough – but a really Other World – another Nature – another universe – somewhere you would never reach even if you travelled through the space of this universe for ever and ever – a world that could only be reached by Magic…’
(The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis, page 25)
As I mentioned in previous reviews this year, I’m spending a little of my reading time returning to childhood classics, some I’m re-reading and others which I haven’t yet read. Having a pretty collection of The Chronicles of Narnia sitting on one of my bookshelves (they’re not mine but my sister’s and I said she couldn’t have them back until I’ve read them – that was a fair few years ago now! Sorry Sis!) I thought it was high time to begin working through the series. I only remember reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe during my formative years, but to be honest, I can’t recall too much from the book itself, but I did enjoy the 2005 film adaptation (although it took me a fair few years to get around to watching that…)
There is a part of me that wants to compare Lewis’ Narnia to Tolkien’s Middle Earth, but I think, that would be wholly unfair, so I won’t. At least, I won’t until I have read all seven books, and then it will only be a maybe. We shall see…
Although The Magician’s Nephew is the first book chronologically in The Chronicles of Narnia, it wasn’t the first book in the series to be written, and there were times when I was reading that this was obvious, and when it was noticeable, I did find it to be quite jarring. Yet there were also times that this very same thing offered an “Aha!” moment or two. Also, it is worth pointing out that this is basically the “Genesis” of Narnia, how that magical world came to be and how people from our world discovered it.
One thing that struck me was its concept of good and evil comes across as very basic. There are simply bad people doing bad things so that the good characters can do good things. As a children’s book of instruction on how to behave, I suppose it works, but as an adult reading it, I found my enjoyment of the story quite limited. I wanted to know why the bad people were doing bad things, I wanted to know what their motivations were.
As to what I really loved about the story…of course, the world described is a beautiful one, and the descriptions are beautiful in their simplicity. And there are some wonderfully profound quotes peppered throughout. Then, there is Aslan…mystical and enchanting, he is a wonderful character. Polly and Digory were likeable too.
I’m quite excited to be reading the next book in the series, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and I feel that, although The Magician’s Nephew was a little up and down in terms of what I enjoyed and what I did not, book two – the most famous of The Chronicles of Narnia – has been set up perfectly.