Allison Tebo's Reviews > The Magician's Nephew

The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis
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it was amazing
bookshelves: fantasy, favorites
Read 3 times. Last read September 24, 2018 to February 5, 2019.

UPDATED REVIEW: Very excited about this one! :)



INTRODUCTION –

Once, The Magician’s Nephew was only three stars. It used to frighten me. It was different from the other Narnia books. But there were parts of it I liked very much and I tolerated the rest of it because it is, after all, Narnia.

Then I read it again at the beginning of 2018 and enjoyed it in a way I had never been able to before . . . and raised my rating to four stars.

I didn’t think I wanted to read it again in 2018, but since I planned on reading the whole series, my neat-and-tidy self demanded that I did . . . and I did . . . and The Magician’s Nephew finally snatched five stars from me, straight from the heart.



THE SETTING –

Lewis perfectly captured that 'new virgin land' feeling, the innocence of a new world and new creations. As the only book that partially takes place in the Western Wild, there is a wild, tangier scent to this novel, but it still smells like Narnia – a rich, satisfying smell that would make even the Bulldog “who resent things strongly” agree that this is undoubtedly Alive – and Narnia. The mood is very dreamy and rich "as rich as plum cake" and I was pulled irretrievably in. It is a little darker than the other Narnia books, but it still has the old sweet scent of Narnia - but a wilder, tangier scent - it feels different from all the other Narnia books.

A great deal more of the story takes place in our World, as well – and Lewis perfectly captures that grimy, clattery feel of London – and yet it’s a Mary Poppin’s sort of London. Something magical might be sparkling beyond the greyness if only we look hard enough – or climb into the right attic.

With its emphasis on portals, this book has more of a science fiction feel than the other books, and because it’s partially set in Victorian England, it could almost be called (dare I say it!) Steampunk. The setting of Charn, a dead and empty city, has a post-apocalyptic tone.


CHARACTERS –

Digory: He's so different from all of Lewis' other English boys - you can really see the budding scholar in Digory. The flame will burn him, but he HAS to touch it to make sure. Digory has an inherently curious and busy mind and needs to test and question everything around him. Naturally, in the form of a little boy who hasn't learned a lot of restraint yet, that will lead to complications. He has an ego that sometimes comes with being academic, and is very much afraid of looking foolish and often does foolish things to preserve his dignity. And yet, there is a sweetness to Digory, a depth of grief that is missing in the other young heroes of The Chronicles of Narnia. The arc between him and his mother is raw, beautiful, and heartbreaking. We rarely get to see filial love in The Chronicles of Narnia, and it was so precious to witness. I also noticed that, as a Victorian boy, Digory was the most gentlemanly of the English boys - always helping Polly in and out of things or up onto things. In some ways, he is the weakest of all the English boys in Narnia, but in other ways, he is the strongest, and shares an unusual connection with Aslan, for it only they that truly understand sorrow.

Polly: Also vastly different from any other English girls in the Chronicles of Narnia. She’s quite feminine and yet there’s such a toughness to Polly – there’s nothing giggly or soft about Polly’s femininity. Far less emotional than other Narnia heroines, Polly has an immensely strong will and a strong personality – she goes toe-to-toe with Digory without flinching and sometimes wins. She’s quite determined, and one rather gets the idea that if she had a little brother, she might bully him a bit. It’s clear that Polly’s occasional pugnaciousness will one day be refined into immovable strength. Polly can be curious about small things, but when it comes to the big picture, she opts for safety and practicality, she is perhaps one of the most practical characters in Narnia but she is not a whiner about it. But even though she wants to go back to London after entering the Wood between the Worlds, she doesn't whine about it as Susan Pevensie did when she wanted to run home through the wardrobe. Polly can be afraid but she doesn't let it control her. There's a good, old-fashioned stouthearted Victorian quality to Polly. You can easily see how this young girl growing into the independent character of Last Battle who is a perfectly happy, single woman.

Digory and Polly - The Duo: Every set of children from England is so different in The Chronicles of Narnia. Polly and Digory are a far more clinical, studier lot than the children that come after them. They act older and far more self-reliant, as opposed to the more child-like Pevensies. They are far more polite than the liberalized, bad-mannered Pole and Scrubb, nor are they complainers, but put their heads down and do what has to be done. I loved how Lewis showed a very subtle and brilliantly done culture shift through his three sets of British children, and as far as their general tone, Polly and Digs might be my very favorite, because of their no-nonsense, mini-adult charm.

Frank:He might be a cab driver, but he is a true King. I love Lewis’s fondness for focusing and elevating the ordinary man, acknowledging that the ordinary can be truly great. You rather get the feeling from other authors (Tolkien does come to mind again) that no mere common citizen could ever become King. I loved the gross disregard Lewis has for someone’s class or the British social hierarchy. Frank might seem simple, but we see a core of faithfulness and goodness – a Goodness that contagious, and a Steady Heart is as irresistible as a warm fire on a cold night. From the very moment we are introduced to him, we see a kindness under the rough edges. The moment our heroes are plunged into emptiness, it is Frank who keeps everyone calm and advises that they sing a hymn and we know that here is a man who is not only spiritual, but knows where to turn during disaster – and that is what makes him great. Lewis shows that kings and queens are just ordinary people. We also, are just ordinary people, and yet God will make His ordinary children rulers.

The Talking Animals: Oh these darling, darling animals! I cannot express enough love for these creatures. Very few authors can accurately portray true innocence – but Lewis can. I rejoiced in the boundless and joyful innocence of these dear animals. These, sturdy, good-hearted and thoroughly British animals, blessed with Life by the Lion and romping for the sheer joy of it. Lewis used his talking animals to show that there is nobility in servitude and submission, and beauty in the unclutteredness of a simple spirit. I adored every one of these thoughtful and humorous creatures so much. But I must give special mention of Fledge, who, unlike the other animals, started out as a very ordinary, dull beast and was given new, magnificent life by Aslan (while still retaining that sturdy personality). The only Pegasus ever mentioned (or at least dwelt on) by Lewis, Fledge is definitely a wonderful character.

Aunt Letty: I had to mention her. I love that there is nothing pathetic about Aunt Letty. She's a spinster shouldering the full responsibility of a child, a good-for-nothing, and an invalid, but despite what some people would call being "beset on all sides" there is nothing self-pitying about Aunt Letty. She is sturdy, steady, no-nonsense, and "holds the line" with admirable elan. Aunt Letty, in all her brevity, is nothing short of a delight. Speaking of Aunt Letty requires me to mention all of the other tiny characters sprinkled throughout this book - the bobby with a small pencil, the singularly saucy crowd mocking Jadis, the maid who enjoys all the carnage and spectacle, and even the poor, dear guinea pig. Lewis is a meticulous and thoughtful author who doesn't overlook a single character - and gives a happy ending even to guinea pigs.

Uncle Andrew:Uncle Andrew: I think all authors could benefit from studying this character. Most writers style their villains off of Jadis - evil arch villains. Uncle Andrew is a human villain, and as such more unique, more humorous, more pathetic . . . and more dangerous. Jadis is a representation of spiritual evil, but Andrew is the representative for human evil – and true evil is “an unblinking gaze at Self.” Uncle Andrew is an academic, like Digory, and utterly in love with the sound of his own words and his own flawed reasoning. He is enamored with the idea of his quest, with the idea of being a benefactor and a genius – and, naturally, he is nothing of the kind. His true love is believing that he is “misunderstood” – and there is probably no other hill that he would chose to die on then to revel in the status of being “misunderstood” – even though the reader understands him entirely. Andrew is the dangerous and pathetic character of a man trapped in the refuse of their own shallowness and spiraling rapidly down the drain of self-destruction. But even those he is despicable, Lewis portrays him with a kind of pitying tone, as indeed, we pity all those who stand against the True King.

Jadis: I am so tired of the villains in fantasy—they are always painted so lavishly, their darkness is so awful. The fear they invoke seems unavoidable, their cruelty undefeatable. But then we have Jadis, one of the best allegories for Satan I’ve ever seen—a twisted, petty, small-minded, overblown, cruel bully. Here at last, at last, is Evil as portrayed as it truly is—fleeing before Light. There is a feeble act of defiance and rebellion here and there, but it is always skulking in the shadows, but when the Lion approaches, Evil shrieks and flees. One of the reason I grow frustrated with Tolkien and so many other fantasy authors; evil is given too much respect, too much power, too much dignity, and those attributes should never be attributed to evil.

Evil may be powerful, but it is not all-powerful. Satan has what he truly wanted—enmity with God—and in having what he wants, he is forever doomed to despair, fury and Hell, and we see that picture painted so clearly with Jadis, as she bites into the apple from the garden, gaining what she desires - and still finds nothing but defeat.

Truth upon truth, as Digory and Polly come to understand the villains, themselves, and Aslan better and better – they are less afraid of Jadis. They are wary of what damage or complications she might inflict, but fear no longer controls them – THEY control each encounter with her. They fully understand that they have the power to escape her tricks and attacks – and if they cannot, their trust lies in a far greater Person than Jadis. Aslan is more powerful than Jadis and is it Aslan that will save them.

Aslan: Which brings me to Him. All Narnia stories are always, ultimately, about Aslan. Always, always – it is about Aslan. Every other character, every scene, is merely dough for the filling, skin and ligaments surrounding the Heart—a beautiful, sacred Heart that beats with unending Love. In every book, Aslan grows bigger as I grow older. In every book, we see a new side of Aslan, with every re-reading. Here, in The Magician’s Nephew, we see him as Creator – and it is a wondrous sight.

That glorious lion, singing the song I love best of all, the song of life. And yet, we see a foreshadowing to His ultimate sacrifice. Even surrounded by New Life, there is a moment of grief between Digory and Aslan – but when the grief is shared and put into perspective, there is beauty in it, and it belongs. This Great and Terrible Beauty, this, Aslan’s introduction, firmly establishes, his might, his majesty and his dignity. There is a prostration here before Aslan that, I think, is a tad stronger than the other books, for this is where the tone is set for the rest of the series. This is the point where we acknowledge Him as the Core, the Song, the LifeGiver, the Lion who Must be obeyed, the King we must surrender to. Aslan is merely the reflection of the One I love – but what a beautifully and humbly crafted reflection.


SPIRITUAL THEMES –

This book is a bit darker than the rest of the series, partially, I think, because one of the main themes of this book is man trying to make things happen on his own outside of God’s will. Fiction nowadays will show us anything but this . . . that to surrender to God’s will is our calling. Fiction is glutted with characters trying to do things their way, railing against God, making deals with God, ignoring God. But here at last, in Aslan, we get a portrayal of God that will not be ignored. Here, in these young children flailing in their reasoning, doing the unthinkable in modern fiction – humbling themselves before the Divine.

Until we surrender utterly to him, we’ll never be at peace. Until we are at His mercy, we can’t receive His mercy.

There is also incredibly moving themes about pain in this story. Digory bears a heavy weight of loss. I connected incredibly with Digory during this reading and his quest to be free of the hurt he holds.

Jadis’s cruel temptation stabbed my heart. “You can be like other boys.” Oh, the cry of everyone holding hurt!—to be like other people. As if we are the only ones carrying pain!— and yet, we are trapped in our aloneness, trapped underneath our own weight. Until we give it to Aslan.

At first, Digory struggles to find solutions with his own power and strength and inevitably falls into sin and is pressed even deeper into the pit under the force of failure.

We cannot make deals with God—to do so is not only the height of disrespect, but shows how little we know Him. One does not bargain with a King. And finally, at the end, Digory sees the truth of that.

The scene where Digory asks Aslan if he will heal his mother brought tears to my eyes. Surrounded by excitement, joy and newness, and yet Digory feels slightly removed because of the burden he carries. The new life is around him, he has been obedient, but the life and joy has not yet entered his heart.

Until he finally learns to stop asking.

At the end of the adventure, Digory is no longer asking for favors or seeking healing—He looks into Aslan’s eyes, and he is content. He stops asking – it’s enough just to know Aslan.

I didn’t expect to find myself in you, Digory, but I did. Your journey is my journey too: I understand it intimately. The true healing was looking into Aslan’s eyes.

It is when we stop trying to force the King to our will, that we find His hand is open, reaching out to us, and full of miracles.

In the end (as Digory cuts down the magic tree and builds a wardrobe) we are filled with promise. Like a balloon billowing with a burst of air, we are filled up and caught up into a limitless sky.

And that, ultimately, is the theme of The Magician’s Nephew—promise. Lewis lays down a groundwork of faith in The Magician’s Nephew– teaching readers that God’s promises can be trusted, that His promises will come to pass, and that His promises are greater than anything we could accomplish on our own or anything our minds could ever conceive.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
November 29, 2016 – Shelved
January 30, 2017 – Shelved as: fantasy
August 2, 2017 – Started Reading
August 2, 2017 –
page 24
10.86% "Uncle Andrew....

"
August 7, 2017 –
page 75
33.94%
August 7, 2017 –
page 90
40.72% "I really liked Aunt Letty... :D

"NO strong language in this house, young woman - IF you please."

"She's drunk - DRUNK -she can't even speak clearly."

XD"
August 7, 2017 –
page 122
55.2%
August 8, 2017 – Finished Reading
September 24, 2018 – Started Reading
September 24, 2018 –
page 10
4.52% "Lewis was such a thoughtful author. He knew readers would wonder about that guinea pig, and he left us with a satisfactory ending for the poor little fellow."
September 24, 2018 –
page 32
14.48% "Lewis never fails to conduct my moods when I read Narnia - it's impossible not to feel sleepy and dreamy reading this.

It was the quietest wood you could possibly imagine . . . You could almost feel the trees growing . . . This wood was very much alive. When he tried to describe it afterwards Digory always said, “It was a rich place: as rich as plumcake.”

I've been to a place in New York like this . . ."
September 25, 2018 –
page 60
27.15% "Taking the Witch shopping is a scene that never fails to make me laugh."
September 25, 2018 –
page 100
45.25% "Ohhhh, the Creation, the Creation!"
February 5, 2019 – Finished Reading
March 2, 2019 – Shelved as: favorites

Comments Showing 1-33 of 33 (33 new)

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Katie  Hanna Polly has always been a favorite of mine. I always wanted to have a cave in the attic just like hers :)


Allison Tebo Jessica wrote: "Polly has always been a favorite of mine. I always wanted to have a cave in the attic just like hers :)"

'high fives' <3

Mmmmm - I'd love an attic space!!


Katie  Hanna She even wrote stories in the attic--and she wouldn't let Digory read them! #me


Allison Tebo Jessica wrote: "She even wrote stories in the attic--and she wouldn't let Digory read them! #me"

LOL! :D


Mary You're making me look forward even more to starting this one with my little sister soon! :D


Allison Tebo Mary wrote: "You're making me look forward even more to starting this one with my little sister soon! :D"

Aww - thanks! :)


Emily This review makes me want to pick this up and read it again!


Allison Tebo Aw, thanks, Emily. 😊


Gabriellyn Lol! My older brother who was 6 at the time was freaked out by that audio book as well! My 4 year old self was totally annoyed that we had to stop listening to it!


Allison Tebo Gabriellyn wrote: "Lol! My older brother who was 6 at the time was freaked out by that audio book as well! My 4 year old self was totally annoyed that we had to stop listening to it!"

Hahaha!! Aww your poor brother! LOL, you were pretty tough! ;😁


Gabriellyn Hah! I suppose so! But I already loved Narnia-I had seen the first movie with the witch killing Aslan scene omitted-like, literally, I realize now that Narnia was the moment I fell in love with fantasy. Literally, I was notorious in my family for wanting to watch The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe ALL THE TIME! So when I got the chance to get more Narnia, I took it with pleasure! :)


Gabriellyn Besides, he was okay! We stopped listening! ;)


Allison Tebo Gabriellyn wrote: "Besides, he was okay! We stopped listening! ;)"

LOL - good...I know how he felt...although I don't think I said anything and sat there scared to the end... 'shakes head'


Allison Tebo Gabriellyn wrote: "Hah! I suppose so! But I already loved Narnia-I had seen the first movie with the witch killing Aslan scene omitted-like, literally, I realize now that Narnia was the moment I fell in love with fan..."

Awww....although I don't think of it as real Narnia (I can't - sorry) it was a GREAT movie and i remember all the hype the year r two it came out and the merchandise and i remember exactly where I was when I first saw the trailer. I had never seen anything like it before....


Roman Kurys Wow! A new way to look at the characters. I never made some of the connections/parallels you're drawing so this was interesting.


Allison Tebo Roman wrote: "Wow! A new way to look at the characters. I never made some of the connections/parallels you're drawing so this was interesting."

Thank you, Roman.


Olivia I really like how you describe the characters!! This is probably my second-favorite of the Narnia books.


Allison Tebo Olivia wrote: "I really like how you describe the characters!! This is probably my second-favorite of the Narnia books."

Aw, thanks, Olivia! Cool! My twin really likes this one too! Which is your top favorite?


Olivia You have a twin???!! That's so cool, I didn't know that. :D

I'm pretty sure my top favorite is The Horse and His Boy. Prince Caspian and this one are milling around up there, too, but I thiiiiiink it's THAHB. :) What about you?


Allison Tebo Olivia wrote: "You have a twin???!! That's so cool, I didn't know that. :D

I'm pretty sure my top favorite is The Horse and His Boy. Prince Caspian and this one are milling around up there, too, but I thiiiiiink..."


Yes, I do!! She's awesome. :)

Aw, that's my Mom's favorite! <3 Ooo - let's see, The Silver Chair and The Last Battle are vying for first place for me - I can't ever choose between those two!


Olivia So cool! <3

Aw ;D Neat! Those are great ones, too. I'm planning to reread The Silver Chair in just a little while!


Elizabeth Dragina LOVE the updated review!!


Allison Tebo Elizabeth wrote: "LOVE the updated review!!"

Thank you so much, Elizabeth!!


Elizabeth Dragina L. O. L. ~ It was long.


message 25: by Mary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mary This is such an amazing review Allison. Wow.


Allison Tebo @Elizabeth - haha! *embarrassed cough* I salute your patience and tenacity in reading this monster! Kinda turned into a blog post.


Allison Tebo Aww, thank you, Mary! <3


Tracey Dyck Ahhh, this is beautiful!


Allison Tebo Tracey wrote: "Ahhh, this is beautiful!"

Thank you!! <3


H.S.J. Williams Wow, great review!


Allison Tebo H.S.J. wrote: "Wow, great review!"

Thank you, Hannah!


Karis I love this review, Allison. Listening to it on audio book last year really made me think deeper of its story, and I just love how you articulated some of those same reflections I had and in such a beautiful way. <3


Allison Tebo Karis wrote: "I love this review, Allison. Listening to it on audio book last year really made me think deeper of its story, and I just love how you articulated some of those same reflections I had and in such a..."

Thank you so much, Karis! You're so sweet!

I'm glad you enjoyed your recent visit to TMN!! This read-through touched me so deeply - it really is a magnificent story.


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