The Magician’s Nephew is the story of best friends Diggory and Alice, and Diggory’s uncle. His Uncle Andrew dabbles in magic and has devised a way to travel between worlds. He tricks Polly into going into another world and taunts Diggory until Diggory follows Polly into a world he’s never seen.
This is technically a prequel to The Narnia books, but on the spine of the version I checked out, this was listed as the first book though it certainly doesn’t have to be read first to understand the world. For those interested in the back story of The White Witch, this book is a must. I know very little about the world of Narnia; this was the first book I’ve read in the series, but I do remember her character. This book also has very strong religious themes and tones.
In the book, we see the world of Narnia spoken into being by Aslan after we’ve visited Charn, accidentally awoken the White Witch, and accidentally brought her bought to our word. The our world is London in an undetermined time though that time is probably in the 1800’s, possible early 1900’s, as it never mentioned cars being driven and the clothes in the illustrations are not at all modern.
The language and style of Lewis’s writing is not modern either. The story is told by a narrator who is writing down all the stories of the world of Narnia. Some phrases that the children use repeatedly became a little tiring, but overall Diggory and Polly are charming and children should love them. However, I’m not sure this is the best book to introduce the series to children. I’ve had several people tell me to start with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Though this is a fantasy book, it is likely to appeal to science-fiction fans as well as the children explore multiple parallel worlds, a theme science-fiction fans will be familiar with.
The world building is outstanding. The Woods is a place I immediately wanted to visit. Charn was alarming, but children will likely want to visit it also. Lewis’s descriptions make the reader feel as if they are there with Diggory and Polly, walking the otherworldly streets along with them.
The book is suited for a wide range of ages from second-graders (with some adult help probably) to high school students and adults. Harry Potter fans have devoured Narnia and vice versa and this is a great fantasy book to keep in mind for patrons who may have dismissed it in the past. It can also be a great series to recommend to patrons looking for religious fiction. While not overtly religious, the Narnia series has long been considered allegorical for the story of Creation and Christ and the parallels that can be drawn are obvious in this book. Young children may or may not see this, but it could alleviate concerns a parent might have about what their child is reading. All that, of course, is assuming your patron is Christian, as many of mine are. Even if they are not Christian, it is an important aspect to note whatever the patron’s religious affiliation may be, but regardless of the religious overtones, this is an excellent fantasy book.
Lewis, C. S. The Magician’s Nephew: The Chronicles of Narnia (Book One). Thorndike, ME: Thorndike, 1983. Print.
The rest of the Narnia series
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle