So we return to the #Narniathon today for the second book in the sequence, which we’re reading in publication order, and my heading to this post is perhaps a little facetious… However, I haven’t read “Prince Caspian” for many, many years so confess to feeling I was on less safe ground than with “Lion….”. Onward and upward – these books are a quick read for a grown-up like me so how did I find my encounter with book 2?

Well, actually, I enjoyed it very much. The book opens with the four Pevensie children being yanked unexpectedly back into Narnia, but it’s a Narnia which seems much changed. There’s no sign of talking animals or trees, the landscape is different and the children are at a loss. Sheltering in an old, overgrown ruin, they discover by chance hints that the time which has passed between the Pevensies’ visits may be longer than they thought; and when they rescue a dwarf from some soldiers set on drowning him they learn about the current rulers of Narnia and the tasks which they may be up against. Narnia’s heir apparent is the titular Prince, descenced from Telmarines, a people from far beyond the Western mountains; although his Uncle, Miraz, is planning to wrest control from the Prince for his own heir. Will the Pevensie children be able to wake Old Narnia from its slumber and defeat the incomers, and will Aslan return to the land?

Reading “Prince Caspian” now was an enjoyable experience, although perhaps tempered by the fact that I knew what had happened while the Pevensies were away so the element of discovering things alongside them which a first-time reader would get was missing. However, the story is a good and pacy one, which doesn’t mess about and gets on with doing what it needs to do, and it seems to me that much of what Lewis intended here was to expand his fictional world from the basic set up in “Lion…”. So Narnia is no longer a country alone, but one place surrounded by other countries and susceptible to invasion. The magical elements seem native to the place, and the invaders more straightforwardly human (and potentially more stupid), and therefore fearful of the Old Narnians once they begin to re-emerge.

So “Prince…” moves the whole story along, setting up basic concepts which will recur during the series: different timespans for our world and Narnia, often leading to a large gap of time when the humans return to the place which allows for the history of Narnia to develop apace (and presumably gives Lewis more freedom with his storytelling); regular quests to save characters from evil and return Narnia to a happier state; and the introduction of a wider landscape of surrounding peoples to give more scope to the plots. All of this opens up Lewis’s alternative world a bit more, and it’s one of the reasons I enjoy reading the books in publication order – that’s how he created them and that’s how he gradually constructed his world.

The return of Aslan was interestingly done, too, and much emphasis was put on individual courage, doing the right thing when it’s really difficult and making the correct choices. That’s the moral, Christian side coming through, I suppose, though it didn’t seem too heavy handed, and instilling some decent morals into young people is something I can approve of nowadays, being an old bat myself… Certainly, Aslan doesn’t makes things easy for the Pevensies and their team, but all come through with flying colours. There is again a lovely set of characters, including the wonderful Bulgy Bears, Trufflehunter the Badger, Trumpkin the Dwarf, Reepicheep the Mouse (a personal favourite) and Dr. Cornelius, Caspian’s tutor and a vital part of the ‘good’ side. As for the baddies, they’re fairly easy to pick out (I would imagine I thought so even as a child) and although Lewis is dealing with people in fairly black and white terms, there are nuances in places and the acknowledgement that if certain characters had had different breaks in life they would have turned out better.

“Prince Caspian” *is* perhaps that ‘difficult second album’, an idea beloved to music journalists, because Lewis had to take the success of a brilliant concept in “Lion…” and develop it into something more which could be the subject of many stories. The plot seems perhaps a little thinner in places, but there are once again wonderful pieces of writing, Lewis’s masterly storytelling and some memorable creations – the history of the Telmarines, for example, and their method of return to their real homeland is quite brilliantly done and I found myself moved all over again by that part. And the book is of course enhanced by Pauline Baynes’s wonderful illustrations – what a talent she was!

So I did enjoy book two of the Narnia stories very much, and I’m also pleased I’ve stuck to the event so far (and hey! I’m *re-reading* books for pleasure!!!) Next up is “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”, of which I have fairly clear memories and I know that Reepicheep will take a major part – roll on February!