I really should have read the Narnia books when I was younger. They're clearly written for a younger audience, and thus void of the mystery and hard magic and world building of most books in the genre. The writing is very transparent, obstacles are readily overcome, and the characters aren't complex to any unique degree.
And yet, I honestly liked this book. I probably shouldn't have, since I'm often quite hard on YA and children's books, but I found this book to be delightful. I think it's because there is so much imagination that is played just right, without pretense. It's straight-forward, ennobling, enlightening, and entertaining. Plus, Lewis' tendency to interject little quips is really amusing, harkening (to varying degrees) to the voices of Pushkin and other romantics.
Lewis is extremely important to the fantasy genre because he shows us the alternative to Tolkien, a mantle that Gaimen wears most prominently today. Rather than sweeping epics that are more in the vein of the epic myths of the past, Lewis taps into folklore and fairytales, the more localized and self-aware stories that children love and adults embrace.
All of that being said, I do wish I'd read this last, as it was one of the last ones written, as is my understanding. I'm fairly certain the other books will be stronger and may end up eclipsing this one. Until then, I'd give this book a 3.5 (4 for children).