Author: C S Lewis
Rating: 3 Stars
Dates read: 09 Apr 19 – 12 Apr 19
Publication date: 15 Sep 1952
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre(s): Children’s, Classic, Fantasy
Lucy and Edmund, with their dreadful cousin Eustace, get magically pulled into a painting of a ship at sea. That ship is the Dawn Treader, and on board is Caspian, King of Narnia. He and his companions, including Reepicheep, the valiant warrior mouse, are searching for seven lost lords of Narnia, and their voyage will take them to the edge of the world. Their adventures include being captured by slave traders, a much-too-close encounter with a dragon, and visits to many enchanted islands, including the place where dreams come true.
I don’t know if it is because this book featured Prince Caspian on a boat and I imagined Ben Barnes in the 2010 film adaptation the whole way through. I don’t know if it is because it was a story that didn’t feature the older Pevensie siblings. I don’t know if it was because it featured the gloriously detestable Eustace and his floundering antics. I don’t know if it is because it features dragons, enchanted islands, and adventures, and of course Reepicheep, but it was definitely the best book of the series that I have read so far.
I don’t think the world of Narnia needs an introduction at this point, so, Lucy, Edmund, and their cousin (Narnia-virgin) Eustace, are somehow whisked through a painting and dumped into the sea, to be saved by Prince Caspian (literally, swan diving into a stormy sea may I add) to say them and haul them upon the Dawn Treader for some hijinks and escapades through bits of Narnia that we have otherwise not yet visited. I do love me a good adventure and/or pirate story, so from the outset was pleased to be reading about a constantly evolving and changing world, even just the world passing by as they sailed.
The aspects of the story that centred around said adventures was really great. I loved reading about new world’s and places, and found the interactions and politics in Narnia quite enjoyable and fascinating to read about. The different peoples of the land(s) they encounter treat the King and his followers in completely differing ways and this dynamic definitely added a more adult element to what is undoubtedly a children’s series. There is actually a series note of discussion surrounding slaves and the slave trade that is addressed at the first port of call, and an honest assessment of greed and self reflection changing you (whether metaphorically or in Eustace’s case physically into and back out of dragon form) that is highly educative and moralistic.
I did feel like some elements of the religious overtones had been scaled back when the book started, and indeed as the book progressed. As they battled turning everything to gold, sinking and dying, and the invisible people’s, I really felt like the story could progress and would progress without it, but as always, it felt like a steam train when it hit. I understand that I am reading this as an adult where imagery is that much more evident, but the literal incarnations and actions of Aslan just begin to become a distraction from what was an otherwise enjoyable and actually really adventurous narrative.
This is undoubtedly my favourite in the series, and to be honest, was almost deserving of a higher rating if not for the sheer force of religious overtone towards the end of the book. I realise I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but, I cannot help but wonder why a man who has created such a rich fantasy world and fantastical narrative couldn’t be more subtle, or more diverse, with his inclusions of religious sentiment. I am really not against the inclusion of religion in literature, but if it is not well done, or like a brick to the face, I can’t help but feel like it is a bit much.