The Complete Chronicles of Narnia

by C.S. Lewis, Illustrations by Pauline Baynes

HarperCollins, October, 2000.
Hardcover, 524 pages.
ISBN: 0060281375
Ages 9 and up

The Complete Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis The recent Harry Potter phenomenon has had parents and children alike searching for something else to read while J.K. Rowling pens her next delightful tome. Many readers have re-discovered the classic stories about the magical land of Narnia, authored by C. S. Lewis. This large and beautiful volume collects all of the books in the series: The Magician's Nephew, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Horse and His Boy, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair, and The Last Battle. The books appear in the order for which C. S. Lewis himself expressed a slight preference, although he was later quoted as saying that it didn't really matter which order the books were read. The books can be read on several levels. On a surface level which children will see, they are tales of English children who get to visit a fantastic land known as Narnia. Narnia is full of talking animals, villains, heroes, witches and adventures, and is ruled over by the high king, Aslan, who appears as a giant lion.

Adults will see the Christian theology which underlies the books, although the Christian ideals form only an underpinning of the stories rather than an "in your face" religious treatise; this is certainly not what most would call a straight "Christian" series -- far from it. For one thing, there is far too much magic, astrology and the like to satisfy the extremists who seem to have so many problems with the Harry Potter series. You'll see as much of the Christian theology as you bring with you to your reading experience, and those with no religious background will likely miss the symbolism entirely -- with no detraction from the story whatsoever. Certainly, good triumphing over evil is a common theme which appears in most fantasy novels in one form or another. And to focus on this debate misses the point of the books entirely: they are meant to entertain. And entertain they do, amazingly so, considering the fact that they were written nearly 50 years ago.

Wisely, the publisher has chosen to keep the fabulous color illustrations of the original artist, Pauline Baynes. This latest edition is a must-have for any fan of the Narnia series. Whether you have children or not, pick up this lush edition and lose yourself in the magical, enchanting world of Narnia. Highly recommended.

--Claire E. White

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This review was published in the August, 2001 of The Internet Writing Journal.

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