Friday, May 29, 2009

The Chronicles of Narnia

Never having read all the books before, I have been slowly working my way through The Chronicles of Narnia on digital audio downloads. It's interesting that Harper Audio has chosen a different reader for each title I've heard.

Because they are classic tales that most kid-lit aficionados have already read, I just have a few brief comments on Books 3 and 5. (I listened to Prince Caspian , Book 4, out of order to coincide with the movie release!) I am adhering to the chronological order of the books, which does not necessarily coincide with their written order or their published order! Confusing, at best

Lewis, C.S. 1954. The Horse and His Boy. Read by Alex Jennings. Harper Audio.

The Horse and His Boy is my favorite of The Chronicles of Narnia. It's shorter than some of the other books (about 4 hours) and it has all the hallmarks of a great adventure story - believable characters, constant action, a hint of mystery, a quest, tension, and lastly, human (and equine!) frailties that add to, rather than detract from the characters. Although written in the aftermath of WWII during the Cold War, the story line is surprisingly relevant. The main human characters, the orphaned Shasta, and the warrior princess, Aravis, from the "North" and "Calormen," respectively, are surprisingly representative of stereotypes from today's ideological war between "East" and "West." Refreshingly, in The Horse and His Boy, the two sides come to understand and appreciate one another. Alex Jennings is a superb reader.

Lewis, C.S. 1952. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Read by Derek Jacobi. Harper Audio.

After The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, this is the most obviously religious book of Lewis' Chronicles, linking Aslan, the god of Narnia, to Jesus of the Christian faith. This certainly does not detract from the story, however, it may render it less appealing to those of different or no faiths. After listening to this maritime adventure, it's easy to guess that The Voyage of the Dawn Treader might have been an inspiration for Clive Barker's, epic Abarat adventures. (I wish there were more!) After Alex Jennings, the voice of Derek Jacobi is somewhat of a disappointment, particularly his grating rendition of the fearless mouse, Reepicheep. Nevertheless, all of Lewis' books are classic tales of adventure and righteousness.

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