Whenever anyone asks me what my favorite book is in the Chronicles of Narnia series is I often reply whatever book of the series I’m reading at that time, unless of course I’m reading the last battle.
This is mostly due to how greatly I esteem the first 6 books in the series and only marginally due to my opinions of the final installment of C.S. Lewis’s beloved heptalogy. Since this is a review of the aforementioned final installment my opinions will surface soon enough, but first some background may be helpful.
I first became familiar with Narnia while in High school while attending a youth group called Campus Life. Speakers at events would read or tell stories from the books. At some point in the summer of 1980 I purchased my first set of the chronicles and I instantly fell in love with this series and subsequently all of Lewis’s work. This set which I bought back in the Carter administration, went every where with me: college, Russia, South Carolina, and back to Illinois when I returned home to court Amy. This was even the set I used to read to our children (initially in the womb) and the same set my children read themselves. Some of those books are now no longer in existence as while I devour books figuratively, my children seem to devour them literally.
In all that time I generally managed to reread each book every year. This year I decided that I would double down and read each book twice. First I would read the books in the order they were published and secondly I would read them in the order they happen in Narnian history, As my 100 days of summer reading began I was midway through The Last Battle, the final book in the order they were published. On this past Saturday I finished it,
The Last Battle is the last book in the series in either way of ordering them. As I have mentioned it is my least favorite. I’m not exactly sure why this is the case. Many people consider it their most favorite and in my multiple readings of it I have been open minded about improving it’s place in my estimation of it. This has just not happened.
The last battle is the story of the ending of Narnia and in a sense like Jill Pole, a character introduced in the Silver Chair. I hoped Narnia would never come to an end. In that way I may have prejudiced my self to a story chronicling it’s end. There are also parts of the book that if I read theologically I would find myself disagreeing with. However I’m not sure if that’s exactly why I find the book wanting. In fact I’m not even sure if I find the book wanting or it just pales in comparison to the other 6. Because like I said I don’t hate or even dislike The Last Battle, I just don’t regard it the same as I do the other 6.
That being said, I tried as much as possible in this reading to approach The Last Battle with fresh eyes. The past few years I even skipped reading it in my annual Narnia fest, so it would be less familiar to me when I did revisit it.
This approach did work to an extent, and I think I enjoyed the book this time around more than I had in past attempts. There certainly aspects and nuances that I gleaned more from than I had previously. One such aspect I rediscovered was the integral roles Jill and Eustace have in this story. I remember them being in it, but they had an earlier and more prolonged involvement than I had remembered. I thought their part was reduced to the final chapters of the book like the other Friends of Narnia. However much like the Pevinise children in Prince Caspian, Jill and Eustace are called to Narnia for a to provide help in the midst of an already developed narrative and then are very central as the narrative comes to a conclusion.
One aspect I’ve always enjoyed about this book is the role of the dwarves in this book Especially near the end of the book when they are at a feast and all they see is dirt. I have had many such experiences when I have not been able to see the joyous things set before me because they have been obscured by my negative thinking.
I really enjoyed The Last Battle this time around, while it’s still not the best of the Narnia bunch, it still ends the Narnian story in a credible fashion.
If I’m to write a review for all the books I read this summer they will probably need to be shorter , so far I’m on pace to read 26 books this summer and only complete 5 reviews.