Book Review: The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis

The Magician’s Nephew is the first book, chronologically, in The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis.

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.

Favourite Quote

‘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)

Review

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.

Rating

9 thoughts on “Book Review: The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis

  1. Pingback: Bookish Reflections – June 2020 | Sammi Loves Books

  2. I know what you mean about going back to read a childhood classic and realizing that it’s a lot more simplistic than I thought. But then, I was a child when I read it, so that makes total sense! It’s been a long time since I’ve read the Narnia books, but I do seem to remember a pretty clear and simple version of good and evil. He’s setting up Aslan as a pretty clear Christ figure, so anyone who’s against him is naturally a bad guy. I don’t know if it’s just a thing about children’s books though; a lot of fantasy from that time was simplistic that way.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think I’m learning this year that I’m finding it harder than I thought I might to *not* review a children’s book from an adult’s point of view. That could be the reason why I struggled so much with What Katy Did earlier in the year… After all, children don’t necessarily need complex portrayals of good and evil, do they? That can come later. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • Well, your review is as an adult talking to other adults, so you can see it as whether those other adults would like the book. I’m not in a great position to say whether a child of a particular age would like this or that, but I *can* say what holds up well enough to be engaging and interesting for adults too.

        And I wonder about the issue of simplistic portrayals of good and evil. Maybe for *very* young kids, like picture books. Children understand right and wrong at an early age (at least by the time they’re reading chapter books) and struggle with how to apply those concepts. If I had children, I probably wouldn’t want to inadvertently teach them that anyone they (or I) disagree with or don’t like must be “evil”, or that anyone they hold up as a positive authority figure is necessarily good and right in anything they do. For that matter, the idea that “good people sometimes do bad things” is pretty basic to being able to punish a child for doing the wrong thing without labeling them as a bad person. Hmm, so the more I think about it, the more I’m leaning toward more nuance even in children’s books.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Sammi, I’m actually reading the first volume in the Artemis Fowl series (by Eoin Colfer) . My 10 year old grandson lent it to me with instructions to read and be ready to discuss it next week! Love the Narnia series.

    Liked by 2 people

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