Stephanie's Reviews > The Silver Chair

The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
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May 13, 2012

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Read in May, 2012

The word that comes to mind is...dark.

SC stands out from all the other Narnia books so far in just how generally heavy it can be. It starts out in a British boarding school (two weeks into a thirteen week term), and that's really depressing. SC is unusual in that the characters want to get into Narnia out of sheer desperation, whereas in the last two books, the characters were just sucked in.

Eustace and Jill play well off each other as characters, and the Eustace of SC connects very well to the Eustace of VDT. He's nowhere near as whiney, but he can still be a bit of a jerk. Sometimes Lewis seems to be a bit hard on Jill, showing her as physically inept and a bit clueless--but I guess for a first timer in Narnia she's going to have it a bit harder than Eustace. And she is sympathetic most of the time, and has some moments of competence. Overall she and Eustace play off each other well, and you can see how far they've come in their friendship by the end. In a subtle way, they go from blaming each other, to showing forgiveness and working as a team. (I think the turning point is chapter 8, where they realize they've missed the third sign, and each of the characters accepts responsibility and makes a point of excusing the others.)

Puddleglum is sort of a one joke character, and it always seems like there's not much reason to listen to him at the midpoint, since he's shown himself to be so over-the-top negative before. But his personality does contribute to the dark theme of the book. The villain is another witch, and though she's not integrated very well, she is a more logical villain than Jadis of LWW and has an over-the-top but understandable plan (more so than an obsession with winter). Also, you can love how charming and sweet she seems right up to the moment she turns on you.

Evil Overlord List:
--I will not tell the guards to leave. Ever.
--I will not turn into a giant snake. It never helps.
--I will not for no good reason engage my enemies in a philosophical argument before I kill them.

These are the main characters, since the prince isn't in the story until the end. As for the plot, I do like the dark moments. The satire of boarding school is a great opening. I love the conflict Eustace goes through on returning to Narnia and finding his friend aged beyond recognition, "worse than finding him dead." It's a downside to the time-bending in Narnia that was glossed over in PC. The flashback story of Caspian's family, and Caspian's near despair is very sad and moving. The journey underground is weird and awesome. The idea of losing your memories and being buried alive adds a dimension of horror to Rillian's story. (Reminds me of a Character from A Deepness in the Sky...) The fact that Rillian only sees his father again a few seconds before the king dies made me go "Shit!" And the closing sequence with the funeral for Caspian and Aslan bleeding from his paw is beautifully happy/sad. In fact, I think this sacrifice might work even better in the narrative than the one in LWW.

From the start, You know this is going to be a standard adventure quest with a seemingly impossible goal that's achieved by the end. I'm not sure the journey is as well developed...for a quickly paced Narnia book, it does seem like you spend a lot of time traveling the moors and getting sidetracked. And it's pretty obvious who the Prince will be. Even the signs can seem a little shoehorned in to give religious tension to the story.

I'd say at this point in the Chronicles, Lewis has about leveled off in his writing style. SC is about as well-written overall as VDT. For some reason, I just like VDT more because even though the plot is more scattered, the book hangs together better for me. Go figure. SC has some very memorable moments spaced out with characters and themes that don't work as well.

I'm fairly certain Aslan's mountain is the same place as at the back of the north wind.
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