Lucy and Edmund Pevensie and their cousin, Eustace Clarence Scrubb (who almost deserves the name), fall through a painting into the Narnian sea, and are pulled aboard The Dawn Treader. On the first Narnian ship in centuries, King Caspian searches for the seven lords banished by his evil uncle Miraz. The voyage faces many adventures, including slavery, dragons, sea monsters, to the very End of the World in Aslan’s country.
Together with The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and The Magician’s Nephew, The Dawn Treader was etched into my mind from when I first read it as a child. As an adult, it’s easy to see why. The tone of the episodic adventures ranges from pure action to silly to terrifying to wondrous, so there’s something for everyone. I love the character of Eustace and his relationship with Lucy and Edmund and Reepicheep and his diary and the dragon. I love Deathwater Island, where no one quite remembers what happened; I love Dark Island, where nearly everyone is lost to fear; I love the wonders of the last sea, with it’s sweet water and large sun and mer-people. I love Reepicheep.
However, some of the adventures were either too serious or too silly, like the kids being captured by slavers or the simple Dufflepuds. A bit of sexism creeps in on the Island of the Three Sleepers, in which Caspian meets a star and his daughter. The daughter is tall and slender, rarely speaks, smiles when Caspian says he’ll come back for her, and is only referred to as Ramandu’s daughter. (She doesn’t even have a name!) Aslan appears a number of times, scolds those who need it, and leaves again, so that the characters never quite feel like they learn their lessons on their own (except for Eustace), not to mention leaning toward sloppy storytelling.
Recommended as a fun adventure story with some fantastically surreal moments!
“Most of us know what we should expect to find in a dragon’s lair, but, as I said before, Eustace had read only the wrong books. They had a lot to say about exports and imports and governments and drains, but they were weak on dragons.”