Friday, January 28, 2011


Prince Caspian, or, Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia (1951) is a children’s fantasy novel, the second in C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. Here, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy are drawn back to Narnia, where hundreds of years have passed, and must work to overthrow a usurper and put the rightful king on the throne.

The story itself is rather straightforward: the Pevensies are in Narnia to do a job and get out. It’s all business, and the spirit of adventure the reader finds in the best books of the series is mostly absent here; it doesn’t help that the story follows the same basic structure as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, only without most of that book’s epic feel and emotional power. And yet the world of magical characters and Lewis’s own wit and sprinkling of profound Christian principles carry the story and make it an enjoyable read in spite of its flaws.

A prominent theme in Prince Caspian is the virtue of faith and belief; some of the children experience degrees of doubt in Aslan, and many of the Narnians have lost faith in him altogether. Other themes include chivalry and, as is always the case with Aslan, grace.

Prince Caspian suffers from some storytelling issues. The novel starts with the Pevensie children, follows them briefly, and then jumps to Prince Caspian’s backstory, which takes up nearly half the novel. When the story returns to the Pevensies, they spend most of their time doing little more trudging through the woods. Prince Caspian almost certainly would have worked better if Lewis had written the whole thing from the point of view of Caspian himself (along the lines of what he did with Tirian in The Last Battle), although this would only further highlight the fact that the Pevensies have very little to do throughout most of the novel (and half of what they do is squabble).

On the whole, Prince Caspian is probably the weakest book in the Chronicles of Narnia, but even so, it’s still worthwhile.