The Narnia series has a great many things to recommend it to readers, but their chief appeal for me at this particular moment in time is how small and compact they are, thus making them the perfect books to read on the tube. I’ll soon be looking for some new light reading (both literally and figuratively) to take the place of C. S. Lewis’ books though, as The Silver Chair brings me to the penultimate installment in the Narnia series and it has the distinct feel of a series winding down to its conclusion.
In this book, another new human is introduced to Narnia in the form of Jill Pole. When trying to avoid the school bullies, Jill and Eustace implore Aslan to help them and soon find themselves in his country. There he tasks them with finding King Caspian’s missing son and restoring him and so, assisted by Puddleglum the marshwiggle, they set out to find Prince Rilian .
Although, like The Voyage of the Dawntreader, this is essentially a quest book it felt much more continuous and natural, where I found the previous book too episodic and patchy. It has a much more realistic scope and so events feel like a logical progression dependent on things that have happened before rather than a series of unconnected occurrences happening one after another. As a result of this, I found The Silver Chair much more enjoyable to read than the previous book. Many of the parts of the story were familiar rather than original, such as the children’s adventures in the city of giants and the silver chair itself, but Lewis tells them in such a charming way that I didn’t mind. Other parts, however, are wonderfully new: I thought that Underland and Bism were excellent creations.
What made this book so enjoyable to read was the presence of Puddleglum the marshwiggle. His irrepressible gloom and pessimism provides an unexpected comic touch which had me smiling throughout. The Silver Chair shows a marked movement towards the end of days state which will emerge fully in The Last Battle with the book taking a turn towards being darker and more serious (I think this book is the first time when a good character dies and is not brought back to life) this light relief is a welcome change of tone. I’ll be sad when I finish my exploration of Narnia, but I look forward to seeing how exactly Lewis manages to do it.
The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis. Illustrated by Paula Baynes. Published by Diamond, 1996, pp. 1991. Originally published 1953.