Book Review: The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis
Proudly presenting Q&A with the kiddo, courtesy of my 10-year-old son, in which I ask my kiddo to describe a book he’s enjoyed recently and he gives his opinions, more or less unfiltered by mom.
Without further ado:
Q: What book do you want to talk about?
A: The Magician’s Nephew
Q: What was it about?
A: It was about these kids . They were friends, and the boy’s uncle was a magician, and they got sent to another world. They went into two different worlds. In one there was an evil queen who took over and then tried to take over Earth. Then they teleported into soon-to-be Narnia. There was a lion that was singing and made Narnia. His name was Aslan. Everything they buried turned into a tree. He gave speech to the chosen animals and the especially chosen of the chosen animals were in the high council. The boy and the girl eventually get back to their own world.
Q: Who was your favorite character?
A: Fledge, who is basically a Pegasus, a horse with wings. And King Frank, because his name is weird.
Q: What was the best part?
A: My favorite part was when they planted toffee candy and it grew into a toffee tree. I wonder if you dropped a part of a refrigerator on the ground, would there be a refrigerator tree?
Q: Would you recommend this book?
A: Yes. I’d recommend it for people who like Harry Potter, adventure stories, and talking animals.
Q: Do you want to read the rest of the series?
A: Yes! I want to read the rest of the Narnia books.
Mom’s two cents:
Somehow, I made it through childhood without ever reading any of the Narnia books. Even as an adult — and a big fan of fantasy writing — I never got around to Narnia until my daughter was old enough for The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, which we read together many years ago. Neither of us ended up pursuing the rest of the series, and it wasn’t until last month when my son came up with the idea of checking out Narnia that I came back to these books.*
*Although there have been several Narnia movies released in the last few years, neither of us has seen them, so we approached reading the books from scratch.
I decided that we should read the books not in publication order, but in the order which author C. S. Lewis later said was his preferred reading chronology — which meant starting with The Magician’s Nephew.
So what did I think? This rather slight book was actually quite fun. The story is rather simple: Neighbors Polly and Digory, looking for adventure, stumble upon the secret room of Digory’s uncle Alexander, who has been working to become a skilled magician all his life. Through Alexander, the children come into possession of magical rings which transport them from their own world into other worlds. They have the misfortune of awakening an evil witch, who follows them home to London for starters, then onward to a brand new planet just in time to see the mighty lion Aslan create all life in this beautiful new world. Digory is responsible for bringing evil into this new world, via the witch, and so must make amends by performing a special quest for Aslan in order to prove his worth.
It’s all quite lovely, with bits of humor and silly adventure, as well as much heavier moments of pondering the nature of good and evil. I liked very much how the story lays the foundation for The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. I think one of the reasons I avoided reading the Narnia series all these years is because of the religious allegory woven into the story. For The Magician’s Nephew, at least, I chose to willfully ignore those parts (the creation myth, the Garden of Eden, the fruit of the tree of knowledge, etc) and just focus on the fantasy — in essence, try to read it from the same perspective as my son.
As a book to read together, The Magician’s Nephew worked very well, and we both enjoyed the story quite a bit. We laughed at the funnier parts, we peeked ahead when a chapter ended with a cliffhanger. I asked my son whether he would have wanted to read this one on his own. His response was that while he liked the story quite a bit, he didn’t think he would have wanted to deal with the “old-fashioned” words that he was unfamiliar with throughout the story (“hansom-cab”, “frockcoat”, and the exclamation, “Well don’t keep on gassing about it!”, for example).
We’re moving right into The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Narnia, ho!