Thursday, 7 April 2016

The Last Battle by C.S Lewis- Review by Carlyn

The Last Battle is the final book in the Narnia series. The Narnia Chronicles consist of eight book, the most well known book being The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe. The books have been serialized on tv and radio and most recently in three movies. The series is an allegorical tale of Christianity and takes place in a medieval fairytale land of Narnia where witches and talking animals exist. The creator of Narnia is Aslan, a Christ like figure in the guise of a lion.  He takes children from our world to Narnia where they help the Narnians in hard times and they return back to the modern world after the adventure is over. The main characters in the books are the Pevensie children, who are Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, along with their cousin Eustace Scrubb and his friend Jill Poll.

 In this book, most of the heroes from the other seven books return to Narnia for one final battle. The trouble begins when a clever talking ape convinces a dim witted donkey to pretend to be Aslan. He soon tricks the Narnians into doing his bidding in the name of Aslan and invites the neighboring country of  Calormen to invade Narnia.  When Jill and Eustace arrive to save the Narnians some don’t believe that they are worshipping a fake Aslan, others are too afraid to defy him and some won’t listen to anyone. All seems lost until the real Aslan shows up and that’s when the adventure really begins.

I’ve been reading the Chronicles of Narnia since I was a child but it was only this year that I finished the whole series. It’s been my goal to finish things off so I’ve been going back to old book series that I should have completed long ago. I had started reading The Last Battle some years before but I never got past the first few chapters. The idea of an ape tricking people about Aslan was so blasphemous that I couldn’t read any further. Aslan is one of my favourite characters in the series so I didn’t like him being disrespected like that. I also have an aversion to sad things that I don’t even like watching movies that I know will have something depressing or sad in them.

Fortunately, I decided to eat some concrete (not really) and harden up so I was able to read the final book.  I found the book to be depressing until Aslan shows up. The only solace in the first part was there was a unicorn!!! And he even talks. I found the finale to be a satisfying end to the series. It was a little sad too but most endings tend to be bittersweet. I liked how all the main characters save for one from the seven books were all back in this book and there’s an even bigger reunion towards the end of the book featuring some of the favourite minor characters.

The best part of the book was when Aslan appeared and put everything right. I don’t want to spoil it for other readers so I’ll leave at that.

I do have some criticisms about the book series in general though. I felt a little uncomfortable about the depiction of the Calormenes which I thought was mildly racist. They are described as having dark skin and long beards, wearing turbans and pointed shoes. Most of the Calormenes are villainous and greedy people who are unreasonable to their detriment. The land of Calormen is like something out of Arabian Nights featuring ornate palaces with thousands of slaves, robes and veils. Whereas, all the heroes in the book are Caucasian, who are beardless and where tunics and the women where long flowing dresses and the men carry broadswords.  The Narnians are mainly noble and heroic, always treating villains with courtesy.

What I have kept in mind though is that the book series is an allegory of Christianity. The crusades were all about getting the holy land back from the Saracens. Another point I did consider was the books were written in the 1950s and that wasn’t a culturally sensitive time. I think C.S Lewis didn’t consider or realize how others may feel about his depiction of the Calomenes.

Despite that contention, I think The Chronicles of Narnia is an excellent book series that people should read, especially children. It is an imaginative series which transports ordinary children from our world into the magical world of Narnia where the battle between good and evil is real. The children come out of it braver and smarter from their experience in Narnia. There’s all sort s of magical creatures in the book which will delight children, such as fauns, centaurs, dragons and fairies as well as array of talking animals.

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