We like to rank things at Rambling Ever On. For evidence of that, see our recent series on the Top 100 Christian Rock Albums from 1980-2019. Or, you can check out the various and sundry Top Ten lists we have published in the last few years. We’ve ranked everything from pies to sitcoms. Today, we wade into the magical waters of Narnia. This won’t be a top ten, as there are only seven books in The Chronicles of Narnia, but we will include commentary for each book in the series.
To be clear, there is no bad book in the Narnia series. Each book offers wonders, enchantment, and powerful storytelling. But, as with most other things, we find there is a pretty clear pecking order from good to great. We welcome your feedback, polite disagreement, or effusive praise. (Also, you can click on any of the book images to be taken to Amazon if you wish to purchase the series through our affiliate link. It will also help support Rambling Ever On.)
On to the list!
7. The Magician’s Nephew
The second to last book in the series (if you read it in the correct order) is our least favorite. Bummer. I’ve always loved it, though I’m not sure how many times I voted for it over any of the other books.
The Magician’s Nephew was a prequel before anyone knew what a prequel was. We get to experience the creation of Narnia, as well as the impending death of Charn, another world that is visited by the book’s protagonists. Both are important. Lewis paints a picture of creation at it’s most joyous and innocent and he also shows us what any world can become if those living there lose their way and become gods unto themselves. Seems like a fitting story for today. (Phill Lytle)
6. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Voyage of the Dawn Treader will always be among my favorite fantasy books of all-time for numerous reasons. But the transformation of Eustace is the cake-taker. He starts off as an annoying younger cousin, but annoying on steroids. Then Aslan does a remarkable work in him. It reminds me of something Mary Magdalene says in Episode 2 of The Chosen: “I once was one way; now I am completely different. What happened in between was him.” But there’s also the prominence of Reepicheep (Probably my favorite non-Aslan character), Lucy’s courage and the assortment of colorful secondary characters, like the invisible Duffers. It’s an excellent middle volume in the series. I never tire of rereading it every year at Christmas. (Gowdy Cannon)
5. Prince Caspian
Despite our final rankings I’m of the opinion that Prince Caspian is the second or third best book in The Chronicles of Narnia. C.S. Lewis’ ability and skill as a writer improved as the series progressed which is probably most evident in PC. Once again the Pevensie children enter Narnia during the opening of the book, but through creative story telling the reader learns that Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy have literally been inserted into the middle of the plot. And unlike most sequels the plot didn’t rely on the characters/events established in LWW. Quite the contrary. Lewis made a brilliant and fascinating decision to set the story a thousand years after the events of LWW! This bold move leant an air of mystery while allowing the story freedom. Lewis used that freedom to flesh out the world of Narnia more fully than in LWW.
Additionally, he focused on characters other than the four Pevensie children and Aslan which should come as no surprise since the book is titled, Prince Caspian. Caspian’s plight has a Shakespearean feel to it. Despite his youth Caspian is thrust into the midst of royal betrayal, murderous plots, and secret heritage. The entire book has a timeless and slightly more grown up feel which I enjoyed. The side characters led by Trumpkin and Reepicheep are all strong, well written, and entertaining. Of course, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy all play crucial roles as well. While there are larger conflicts the ultimate battle is a duel between Peter and the villain, Miraz. Once again this was smart as it made the conflict personal and intimate. The fight was suspenseful and it’s conclusion was anything but predictable. The ending of the book held yet another surprise for the reader when Aslan declares that Peter and Susan have outgrown Narnia and will no longer be able to visit. “Prince Caspian” is a well written book which stands out in the series. (Mark Sass)
4. The Last Battle
Every book of The Chronicles of Narnia excels in its magical ability to transport its readers. One of the most vivid memories of my childhood is my image of being brought into the picture of the Dawn Treader. In The Last Battle, Lewis transports his readers into the end of time. The eschaton of Lewis’s fantasy world is simultaneously epic and small in scale. The simple story of a donkey (Puzzle) being manipulated by an Ape (Shift) into impersonating Aslan is where out story starts. A great evil that would change the world—a treacherous lie—takes shape in a far outpost of Narnia by two seemingly insignificant characters. Of course, there are larger forces at work. Some of these are for evil, but good will have the upper hand.
From this provincial episode of deceit, Lewis takes his readers on a journey that ends in epic transformation. The scope of the book continually grabs my attention. It goes from minuscule to larger-than-life. Shift and Puzzle set events in motion that bring about the collapse of Narnia and culminates in the Lewis’ version of the New Creation. The readers, like the story’s heroes, are invited to explore a Narnia that is even more real than the one they had known. As they go “further in and further up,” Lewis gives them a fictional retelling of Revelation 21. All human (and animal) hopes and longings are fulfilled in this explosion of final redemption. Typical of Lewis, he also takes time to reflect on those who are too blind to see this beauty. The readers are left to ponder their own perspective on God’s grandeur and if their eyes will be open enough to see it for what it is. (David Lytle)
3. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe is the perfect book to start this series. The way it introduces Aslan, representing both fear and hope, is the obvious reason. But even the introduction to world of Narnia, beginning with Mr. Tumnus is picture perfect to me. When I read this book I feel secluded from the world around me—insulated even—as I read the simple story of good triumphing over evil. This book makes me feel safe, even if Aslan doesn’t. The biblical allusions are extra. Even without those, I’d adore this volume. (Gowdy Cannon)
I’ll “second” what Gowdy wrote, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the only way to begin this series. It is the best introduction to the world of Narnia and the magic contained therein. We NEED to discover Narnia with Lucy. We need to see it through her eyes, with all the wonder and joy. It’s a disservice to the series to be introduced to Narnia any other way. Beyond that, the story is simply magical. No, it’s not masterful world building, with various mythologies intermingling, but Lewis wasn’t concerned about that. He wanted to amaze and inspire, and there is no doubt, some 70+ years later, that he more than accomplished his goal. (Phill Lytle)
2. The Horse and His Boy
The Horse and his Boy is unique among the Narnia books for a couple reasons. First, it is the only one of the seven books whose story takes place during the events of a another book (“The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”). Second, it is the only Narnia Chronicle where the human heroes of the story are not children from our world who came to Narnia by magic.
Most of the events of this book don’t even take place in Narnia, and getting to read about the culture, geography, and customs of Narnia’s neighboring country Calormen and to a lesser extent Archenland has always been a favorite part of this series for me.
Lewis’ portrayal of the great lion Aslan is powerful. He is always present and working in the lives of the book’s protagonists, but this is only obvious in hindsight. Another lesson from Lewis that we would all do good to remember. (Mike Lytle)
A Horse And His Boy is my favorite ending of any of the books, if you do not count the Last Battle ending, which is special for obvious reasons. But the way it ties up the stories of the lovable quartet of Shasta, Bree, Aravis and Hwin brings peace, satisfaction and joy to the deep parts of my heart. Yet the ending is set up by a spectacular beginning and middle. I adore the story arc of Shasta and Aravis in particular and how they go from rivals of a sort to the ultimate companionship of marriage and becoming parents together. And the horses are not to be outdone as they both provide humor and poignancy throughout. Finally, the comeuppance of Rabadash is the cherry on the sundae. We know real life is not a fairy tell, yet in our Bible Genesis, Esther, Job, and even our Gospels prove that God can create a happy ending. This book reflects that. (Gowdy Cannon)
1. The Silver Chair
The fourth installment of the series is first in our hearts. It did not lose one matchup in our round robin voting. For my money, there is nothing that doesn’t work in The Silver Chair. Lewis was at the peak of his writing powers when he penned this exciting adventure story. The story is more focused than “Voyage.” The plot is more complex than “Prince Caspian.” And the characters are as interesting and memorable as “Wardrobe.” To cap it off, Lewis gives all Narnia fans one of the most endearing and incredible characters every created: Puddleglum. If the final confrontation between the brave Marshwiggle and the Lady of the Green Kirtle doesn’t move you, you might need to check to see if your heart is still working.
As wonderful as the book is, from the four signs Jill is given to follow, the interaction between the three heroes, Castle Harfang, to the awe and wonder of the Underland, Lewis closes the book in a way only he could. In a scene that might be overlooked or at the least, underappreciated, Lewis tucks away a beautiful and profound theological lesson. As I wrote in a previous article for Rambling Ever On:
At the end of The Silver Chair, the fourth book in C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, after we witness the funeral of an aged King Caspian, we watch the protagonists of the story, Eustace and Jill, cry over the body of Caspian as it lays in a stream. They weep at the death of this great King and friend. The great lion Aslan weeps with them, and his grief and tears go beyond anything they feel, “each tear more precious than the Earth would be if it was a single solid diamond.” And then, in an act of participatory grief, Aslan asks the children to take a thorn and plunge it deep into his paw. The blood then drips into the stream with Caspian’s body and not only gives him new life but restores him to the vigor and likeness of his youth.
Aslan felt the grief and loss more profoundly than the children, but then does something that we all wish we could do – he conquers death. That is the promise we can cling to in times of sorrow. Our Lord grieves with us. He hates the things that make us grieve more than we do and longs for the day when He will fully restore His creation to its rightful and intended glory.
That is the beauty of Narnia. It’s that pull towards grace, the gentle nudge to the Truth that makes these stories stand far above most other tales. The Chronicles of Narnia are great stories, in large part because they reflect the greatest story ever told. (Phill Lytle)
There you have it. The Narnia series ranked by Rambling Ever On, just the thing you have been waiting for your entire life. We’re happy to make this dream come true for you. Let us know what you think in the comment section below or on any of our social media accounts.
- Rambling Ever On Ranks The Chronicles of Narnia - January 29, 2021
- The Top 100 Christian Rock Albums (1980-2019): Part Five - December 30, 2020
- The Top 100 Christian Rock Albums (1980-2019): Part Four - December 16, 2020