Friday, March 21, 2014

Prince Caspian (The Chronicles of Narnia (Publication Order) #2) by C.S. Lewis

My best friend owned a menagerie of animals: rabbits, a mouse, parakeets, a cat, a dog, a fish, a gerbil. Her kitchen smelled and sounded like a pet store with squawking, whirring wheels, and small feet pitter pattering on cage floors. Her mouse Reepicheep was memorable; especially when the dog or cat got fleas that led to it getting fleas and losing all its fur. Our poor bald Reepicheep became inspiration for us to make up our own story (wish we'd written it down); however, in "Prince Caspian," the real Reepicheep lost his tail and was dishonored and ashamed. He takes on the character traits of the mouse in Aesop's fable, "The Lion and the Mouse." The lion ridicules the mouse for being small and it ends up saving the lion's life. In "Prince Caspian" Reepicheep is ridiculed for his size, but he helps save the Narnians in battle. He is proud, courageous, and noble. He is also introduced in the last third of the book.

Susan, Peter, Edmund, and Lucy get transported back to Narnia while on a train platform one year after their first visit there. The platform setting has been used by Ibbotson and Rowling in their fantasy books. I remember not really relating to it as I grew up in a city where the main transportation was cars not trains. Either way the four find themselves in Narnia after a thousand years has passed and in the ruins of their old palace, Cair Paravel. They retrieve their gifts from Father Christmas except Susan's horn is missing. As they set off they come across a dwarf being murdered and they rescue him.

The dwarf, Trumpkin, updates the foursome on the state of Narnia where many of the talking animals have been killed and are now in hiding. The trees have gone silent and the most of the population no longer remembers old Narnia. Trumpkin tells the story of how the current King of Narnia, Miraz, killed the old king, stole the crown from the rightful heir, Prince Caspian and is now trying to murder him. Caspian is battling Miraz's army and it is not going well. He blows Susan's horn to call the four to help him and the four set off to get to him at the stone table.

The theme of loyalty is prevalent. Lucy sees Aslan who motions for the group to travel in a different direction than they are going. When Lucy tells the others, Susan, Peter, Trumpkin, and Edmund do not see Aslan and therefore don't believe her, just like they didn't believe her when she told them about the wardrobe opening into Narnia. The group votes to go a different way, although Edmund sides with Lucy because he learned in a previous book that she was right and he has learned to trust her. This recurring theme of belief and faith carries throughout the series. I found it a bit unbelievable that Peter and Susan wouldn't believe Lucy. You'd think they would have learned with the wardrobe to trust her and considering they had grown-up in Narnia they would have had experiences that would make them recognize Lucy's wisdom. But that is the adult in me who feels the characters have already learned this lesson. As a kid I didn't think that. I thought, those darn older siblings, they are such know-it-alls.

I did have a problem with Trumpkin's flashback. It slowed the pacing down considerably. I also thought there was too much of the four reminiscing about what it was like in Narnia when they ruled.  The character development of Prince Caspian lacks internal tension as being told secondhand by Trumpkin and while there is external tension I felt too removed from the action. The plot picks up once the flashback stops and then I got into it a little more. Prince Caspian is growing into the role of king and one who leads. Peter and Susan are growing up and getting too old for Narnia. I remember hating that my hero, Peter, would no longer be in the following books. The usual mix of myths and fables is in this story with a bit of Christian symbolism. I mentioned Aesop's fable but I thought of doubting Thomas in the Bible when Lucy saw Aslan and no one else did. The Telemarines in Narnia seem similar to the Normans and Saxons who fought each other historically before becoming one ethnic group. When the old Narnians went in hiding and some mixed with humans it made me think of the Jews not having a nation. Lewis always has some thought-provoking plot elements; however, the result of this story while entertaining was slower and somewhat forgettable for me.

I read this as #4 - chronological order.
3 Smileys

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