I love the way Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis begins: “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrub, and he almost deserved it.” Eustace is an obnoxious cousin of the Pevensie children of the previous Chronicles of Narnia books. Lucy and Edmund are having to stay with Eustace’s family while their parents and Susan are in America and oldest brother Peter is preparing for an exam with the professor in whose house LWW took place.
It’s been a year since their last visit to Narnia, and they’re missing it and reminiscing about it in Lucy’s room when they notice a ship in a picture on the wall looks very Narnian. The ship begins to look like it is actually moving, they feel the spray of sea water, and suddenly they find themselves in the ocean near the ship…along with Eustace, who happened to come into the room. The ship turns out to be Caspian’s, and he pulls them out of the water. Three years have passed in Narnia, peace reigns throughout the land, and Caspian is making good on his vow that he would search for the seven lost lords of Narnia whom his evil uncle had sent away in Prince Caspian.
Lucy and Edmund join Caspian, Reepicheep, and the rest of the crew on the search: Eustace has no choice but to come along, complaining the whole time. Their adventures, discoveries, temptations, and lessons make up the bulk of the book. And I can’t say much more than that without telling you too much and spoiling the story for you if you’ve not read it.
I saw somewhere that this book was thought to be “darker” than LWW and Prince Caspian. I don’t know that I would say that, but it does seem each major character struggles more with personal temptations.
We did watch the film version of this book a few months ago, and I liked it well enough at the time, but now that I’ve reread the book, I am disappointed that they made several unnecessary changes. When will filmmakers learn that when they veer farther away from the plot of well-known, beloved books, their film suffers?
One of my favorite scenes in the book is when Aslan relieves Eustace of his (small spoiler here) dragon skin (and that scene was a big disappointment in the movie).
And one of my favorite lines is when Aslan tells the children that in their world he has another name and “You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.” That to me encapsulates the Narnia series as a whole.
Though neither Caspian nor Dawn-Treader quite measures up to LWW for me, they are only a small notch or so below it. I did like and enjoy them very much.
(This review will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)