It’s time for another group review of Narnia fanfics!
This time, the form is a buffet featuring authors on AoW who I haven’t written reviews on before. I had plenty of time to read, as I was sick with bronchitis during a heatwave (yeah, that’s fun) and couldn’t do much else.
Gale and the Dragon, by Sauron Gorthaur (Tough_Girl)
This story was longer than the ones I usually read, a whole novella in fact. But it was also the first time I’ve seen this premise tackled in a fanfic, despite Lewis’s promise in the Chronicles “to tell the tale one day” of how King Dale saves the Lone Isles from a dragon and they join the kingdom of Narnia.
Well, that day to tell comes in The Last Battle where the narrator is Jewel the Unicorn and the audience Jill, Eustace, Tirian and Poggin as they tromp towards the stable where their fates will be decided. I liked this framing device and the writer did an excellent job of capturing Lewis’s tone. Some parts were overdone: Jill and Eustace often sounded like the brats they were in The Silver Chair, not the more mature teens they should have been. But Jewel and Tirian’s voices were spot-on and through them I felt the heaviness and apocalyptic nature of the book.
The story-in-a-in-story, though, turned out to be more of a fantasy romance. It was well done, but not my cup of tea. I get bored with the trope of mistaken intentions where the characters are too thick to act on their attractions. That’s me, I emphasize; others may feel differently. Anyway, things start off with King Gale feeling bored; then he hears news from a talking bird of the dragon’s attack and wants to run off to save the Lone Isles, by himself, to prove his worth. As the author writes it, this idea is as dumb as it sounds and the King has to learn a hefty dose of humility, cooperation, and impulse control on the journey, especially with the woman he rescues from a slaver’s ship who becomes his love interest.
The adventure part of the plot was routine in that the characters had the conflicts you expect them to have. Gale has disagreements with his advisors over his decision to go, then there’s the choosing of his party, a ship, and a captain; on the way to the islands there are clashes with slave-trading pirates and sea-people. No, they don’t meet Poseidon riding a giant sea turtle, or an isle of talking dogs, or killer seaweed; none of that. Finally we get to the dragon battle in the last two chapters where, amazingly, he still has no idea how he’s going to defeat this beast until it dawns on him he needs help from his friends. Again, he was kind of thick. It was hard to take him seriously despite other parts of the writing working. In the end he learns his lesson and everything is tied up without being too sappy. Secret sauce: the side characters who turn out to be more than you expect, and Darkspot, the King’s talking leopard companion, who is savage as well as loving and caring.
The Last Battle; Narnian History
On the brink of ruin, by ElementalRaven
After the defeat of the White Witch the new rulers of Narnia raze her castle to the ground. But a talking bird reports there’s a Hag stirring in the ruins, so Queen Susan decides to investigate, talking with her a talking snow leopard and a satyr as backup. She discovers three followers of the late witch up to some spell business and becomes possessed!
The plot idea behind this was simple, and perhaps too pat and convenient (A forgotten secret chamber after all these years? Really?) but the author puts a spin on Queen Susan, making her Royal Spymistress as well as the Gentle Queen ( “Narnia had made use of spies and informants long before Jadis” ) restoring to her the dignity she lost after the lipstick and nylons denouement of The Last Battle. This is a Narnia tale written for grownups.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; The Golden Age
All shall love me and despair, by Syrena_of_the_lake
A talking wolf says a Gorgon’s been spotted (Does anyone sense a common theme in all these stories? Talking animal reports a fell mythological creature?) which Edmund stupidly thinks is a cheese — shame on you Edmund — so King Peter investigates and meets Narnia’s first talking Moose. But as they reach the Gorgon’s cave, a talking Goose swoops in to attack first, Batman style. Cute and clever like a sitcom episode from the Golden Age. (The title refers to Edwina the Goose.)
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; The Golden Age
All They Ever Wanted, by JohnJudeFarragutPhD
A short but thought-provoking story. Aslan despairs because the Pevensies have gone back to England but the Narnians aren’t interested in more human kings. They all want to be kings now, and forget that Aslan is the true king. I hope I haven’t given too much away, but I like the multiple ways the story could be interpreted: read one way, it’s an allegory about Christianity; read another, about putting the self and individual desire above the need to follow the rules of society; as a third, a meta commentary about fictional characters who always come up short wanting to be number one for a change. The writer’s one I’ll watch.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; Post-Golden Age
The Spirit’s Tender Steel, by the_rck
A story of Narnia from a more adult and serious perspective, with a touch of historical fiction, that proposes Queen Susan’s trip to Tashbaan was not to visit Prince Rabadash but to awaken its spirits the same way she and her siblings (and Aslan) made winter-bound Narnia into a place alive with naiads, dryads, and living gods. This was a point Lewis never addressed in the series: was all of Narnia-the-world alive, or just the land of Narnia itself? The author proposes the latter, with hints that the population of humans keeps them inert. It’s a lovely concept and handled intelligently, if obscurely, by the author, and one that could create a whole book’s worth of plot.
The Horse and His Boy
A Visit to the Museum, by Snacky
From ancient Narnia we go to far-future Narnia, which has evolved into a facsimile of the modern world with cars, cell phones, and universities, but sees the myths of its past as merely historical. A docent leads a group of students through a Smithsonian-like museum where they oooh and ahhh at each exhibet. It’s a clever, fevered romp with some of the best Narnia worldbuilding I’ve ever read, and there’s a twist at the end. Fun!
The Fisherman and His Boy, by queenlucythevaliant
One of my favorite categories of Narnia fanfics is the AU, or what-may-have-happened if this thing took place and not that. This fic is one of the best of them I’ve read and deals with Shasta and his much-maligned “father” Arsheesh the fisherman, who as you remember from The Horse and His Boy, was more than willing to sell him out.
This one makes Arsheesh into an actual character, who, like Aravis, goes through an arc of redemption. When Shasta is around six or seven, Arsheesh finds out he is really Prince Cor, and thus wants the reward money from returning him to his royal parents. On their journey north they collect Bree, Aravis and her older brother, and Hwin; problems ensue with pesky lions and trips across the Tashbaan river. The story is under 6,000 words, yet like Lewis at his best, feels much longer and more epic, and writer successfully imitated his style too. Much recommended.
The Horse and His Boy; AU