Paper Plane Reviews

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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll

I’ll admit, I wasn’t actually intending to read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland when I first picked up my edition. Having tried and failed to read it when I was younger, I wasn’t all that interested in the actual novel itself. But, as you can see from the below cover, this looked like it would be a manga adaptation, which I was interested in purely because I like that whole Wonderland aesthetic. When I got it home and out of the shrink-wrap, however, I found that rather than an adaptation, I had picked up an illustrated version of the original novels, which was a tad confusing considering it was a comic shop. Either way, it seemed a shame to waste a perfectly nice edition of a book, especially when the art looked so pretty.

The reader follows Alice, a young girl who finds herself in another world after following a white rabbit dressed in a waistcoat down a rabbit hole. There she meets a series of strange characters and must navigate an assortment of situations in which logic appears to have disappeared entirely.
I went into Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass expecting to absolutely hate it. As I mentioned above, I couldn’t get into it when I was younger, so I wasn’t really expecting a huge deal. As it was, I was pleasantly surprised to find it thoroughly average. In a weird way, I think it is both too universally well-known and also too hopelessly old-fashioned to really speak to people in the way that they expect it will.
Firstly, the too well-known part. There isn’t much of either book that the general public isn’t familiar with in some fashion. Off the top of my head, the only parts that were unfamiliar to me were the Duchess’ pig-baby and the giant puppy from Adventures in Wonderland and the battle between the lion and the unicorn from Through the Looking-Glass. As for the rest of it, it’s all pretty familiar. Even some of the more minor parts have become part of everyday pop culture. “What’s the difference between a raven and a writing desk?” has been so over-analysed that the riddle has gone from having no answer to too many. Hell, I remember being told “Time for bed the Walrus said” when it was getting too late, which is unintentionally sinister now that I think about it. It’s so ubiquitous now that public consciousness of the property is probably influenced as much by modern reinterpretations as it is by the original.
This mention of modern reinterpretations leads me to my second point, which is the hopelessly old-fashioned part. You can kind of tell from some of the poetry that Carroll is playing on rhymes of the time, but it’s hard to appreciate the cleverness of it when the original rhymes aren’t well-known anymore. Without that context, the book has to rely on its plot, and if you have any concept of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland then you can already tell what the problem with that statement is. Without the contemporary context, the book is left to rely on events that only barely have continuity with one another and don’t have any stakes to speak of. It feels like a story that a child would make up and honestly it just strikes me as bizarre that it would last so long in cultural memory.

I think the only thing that really surprised me coming out of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass is how little the books actually hold up. The rhymes that it plays with haven’t survived the test of time, and it means that the reader is left with a plot that is disjointed at best. The writing itself is okay but there’s not much content to work with. It only really works on an aesthetic level these days. 2.5/5

Next review: Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Signing off,
Nisa.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

After the disappointment that was The Mammoth Book of Body Horror, I was in the mood for something familiar. I hadn’t read Treasure Island in years, and remembered really enjoying it when I was younger, so it seemed like the perfect book to revisit.

Treasure Island follows a young boy named Jim Hawkins. Helping his parents run their inn, the Admiral Benbow, he meets a cantankerous old sailor who is rather keen on avoiding other seamen. When he dies after his old crewmates turn up to harass him, Jim gets his hands on the old man’s sea-chest, with a treasure map inside. Joined by Doctor Livesey and Squire Trelawney, they embark on a journey to retrieve the treasure, gathered initially by the infamous Captain Flint. But all is not well, as their crew of honest hands has been infiltrated by former members of Flint’s crew, most notably the one-legged Long John Silver.
It might just be the innumerable film adaptations overriding my memories of the book, but I do not remember there being quite as much malaria in Treasure Island. I’d also managed to forget a whole chunk of the book in which Jim manages to steal back their ship, the Hispaniola, which is probably more worrying. Regardless, I still enjoyed it about as much as I did when I was a kid. There was a small part of my brain making things weird by thinking of my two favourite adaptations (the Muppet version and Disney’s weird but somehow still coherent Victoriana Space Opera version), but it does definitely still stand up by itself.
One thing that I will mention for those of you who haven’t read Treasure Island, but have seen a bunch of the adaptations is that Hollywood has a weird obsession with trying to make Long John Silver into a kind of weird father-figure for Jim. There isn’t really much of that in the actual book, with Silver being more or less a child-friendly depiction of a psychopath. Sure he switches sides towards the end, but not out of any genuine affection for Jim; considering that the alternative is dying on a malaria-ridden island with three former comrades who really aren’t satisfied with the way that his grand voyage has panned out, it’s a purely pragmatic decision. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just something that would stand out if you’ve only ever seen film versions before.

Treasure Island is a classic for a reason. The characters are great, the action is gripping and who doesn’t love pirates? If you’ve only ever seen the film versions before though, you might want to prepare yourself for a significantly less likeable Long John Silver. 4.5/5

Next review: Summer Knight by Jim Butcher

Signing off,
Nisa.

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

The Last Unicorn is one of those stories that I only really heard of after I started venturing out onto the Internet a bit more, and even then I seemed to find mostly artwork of the eponymous unicorn, with surprisingly little about the actual story. So when I got round to actually reading it, it had become a weird kind of amorphous non-entity: apparently a really beloved classic, but with little actual substance that I could see and figure out why people liked it.

It is a regular eternally spring day for the unicorn, when she hears a message that she can’t bring herself to ignore: that she is the last of her kind in the world. Venturing from the safety of her forest, she sets out to find out what happened to others like her. Joining her on her journey are Schmendrick, the world’s worst magician, and Molly Grue, an indomitable spinster. But the three of them may not be enough to combat the terrible Red Bull that stalks the land of the miserly King Haggard.
What I’m about to say probably won’t make much sense. Because I had a copy of the deluxe edition, my edition of The Last Unicorn came with a lot of additional material, including an introduction and an interview that hammer in one point about the writing process for this book: it was a complete chore and it took years before Beagle could look at it and admit to himself that it was any good. And while I did like what I read, I think that there is a part of that struggle that shows through the writing. The Last Unicorn is a truly beautiful book at several points, but as a whole it kind of left me emotionally cold. I don’t know what it was, but despite enjoying it, The Last Unicorn probably won’t be high on my list of books to re-read any time soon. It’s like watching a dancer who is technically flawless, but who doesn’t enjoy performing anymore and hits her cues more out of obligation than anything else. The parts that I liked were the points where the fairy tale stuff was juxtaposed by the moments of crushing reality: the spider crying in the night having discovered that it can’t weave the moon in her web, or Molly asking why the unicorn only turns up in her life after her youth and loveliness have already left. The more traditionally fantasy elements, regardless of how self-aware they are, seem to be there more to fit the story structure. It is really well written though, so I would be interested to see some more of Beagle’s work, perhaps something that hadn’t been such a struggle for him.

Thoroughly beautiful at times, but I can’t honestly say that The Last Unicorn did much for me emotionally. There’s nothing specifically wrong with the novel, but this just wasn’t really for me. Pleasant enough and probably enough to warrant reading other works by this author, but this work seemed a bit too beholden to obligating fairy tale tropes to really stretch out and become something truly wonderful. I am probably in a minority here though. 3.5/5

Next review: Grave Peril by Jim Butcher

Signing off,
Nisa.

The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis

The last volume of the Chronicles of Narnia. After so much time spent overlooking the series, I was finally about to the read the last installment. I had some pretty decent hopes considering that I had thoroughly enjoyed the last three books that I had read of it. And the idea that the plot would be sparked by a false Aslan was too intriguing to pass up.

In The Last Battle, Jill and Eustace find themselves summoned again to Narnia to assist King Tirian against a false Aslan who has sold the Talking Animals to the Calormenes as slaves and cut down the Dryad forests. Facing odds never before seen in Narnia’s history, they must prepare themselves for a momentous battle in the darkest hour.
I wanted to like this so much, but The Last Battle just manages to fail in two ways that are massive dealbreakers for me.
First, I had kind of hoped that the racism thing might have been more or less contained within The Horse and His Boy, but oh boy was I wrong. Turns out that The Last Battle is the installment that decided that blackface was needed. When Tirian and the children decide to darken their skin to infiltrate the enemy forces at page 60, I knew with a sinking feeling that this would not be one of the Chronicles of Narnia that I would be able to recommend. Just everything involving the Calormenes felt so uncomfortable, because it’s the whole “evil dark people” bullshit without any real examination. They embody the worst parts of both heathens and non-believers in one set of characters, and I would be hard-pressed to think of a depiction of PoC characters that is worse than this without being created by the KKK. When the dwarves start insulting them and calling them “Darkies”, it was a startling reminder that this story is being told by someone who would be our equivalent of a bigoted older relative that you tolerate out of familial duty.
Second, there was the ending. The Last Battle has an ending that you know is meant to be the happiest of happy endings, but it just comes across as weird and wrong and utterly terrifying instead. So Narnia has its end of days after King Tirian makes a final doomed stand. While I will give kudos to Lewis for actually depicting Narnia’s apocalypse, it feels really wrong to read about a world that you’ve spent seven books in just get washed away. Then they travel to Aslan’s home, where they find that he has the best of all possible worlds all packed into one presumably non-euclidean space. And all but one of the children who had adventured in Narnia can now stay with Aslan forever because they died in a train accident. Yeah. Lewis just sort of jams that bombshell in on the last page, and the reaction is surprisingly calm. They all just sort of accept this right off the bat, none of them wondering how their surviving relatives are coping with this tragedy. I mean, they insult Susan to no end, but for her this is the day when all three of her siblings, both her parents, one of her cousins and the old man who looked after her during evacuation die in a tragic train accident. No-one asks after her. Apparently liking lipstick is enough to get you barred from heaven. And another thing. That’s a great lesson to teach kids: no matter how good life gets, once you get a glimpse of God’s graces you will never be truly satisfied until you’re dead. If that doesn’t creep you out, then you are obviously the audience that C. S. Lewis was aiming at.

A really disappointing end to the series. Unremittingly racist in tone and with a creepy bombshell ending, I can’t really find anything to recommend here. End the series with The Silver Chair, it only goes downhill from there. 1/5

Next review: A Method Actor’s Guide to Jekyll and Hyde by Kevin MacNeil

Signing off,
Nisa.

The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis

With a string of installments that have been pretty strong more recently in the Chronicles of Narnia, I went into The Silver Chair with somewhat decent expectations. I mean, it didn’t include any of the Pevensies this time, but it was still continuing the part of the series that I’ve found most rewarding, so the verdict should be a pretty good one, right?

The Silver Chair starts off with our protagonists Eustace, introduced in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and his school-friend Jill as they try to hide from some bullies. Attempting to escape through a door in the schoolyard wall, they find themselves transported to Narnia. Charged by Aslan to find the missing son of King Caspian, they find themselves facing temptation on all sides as they attempt to stick to the strict instructions given to them.
Let me say before I continue that The Silver Chair is a perfectly enjoyable book. The characters are well-written and the adventure is very well-crafted with a fantastic final confrontation with the villain of the piece. With that in mind, I came to a realisation that is possibly true of the preceding installments in the Chronicles of Narnia, but is especially evident here. The humans really don’t do a great deal of good here. See, they’re given four instructions to carry out by Aslan, all of which will make their job of rescuing the prince that bit easier, but all Eustace and Jill really manage to do is get distracted by temptation whenever it turns out that this whole adventuring lark might get a bit unpleasant at points. Honestly, if it had just been the two of them, I don’t think they’d have even gotten started on their journey. As it was, I think the unsung hero of this book is Puddleglum, the Marsh-wiggle who is tasked with guiding them to their destination in the Wild Lands of the North. With his gleefully pessimistic demeanour and focus on how everything could go wrong at any time, he’s pretty much the only thing that keeps the party on track at all. While he’s no Reepicheep, he was a breath of fresh air compared to the bumblings that the human children bring to the proceedings. Now, while I reiterate that I still really like The Silver Chair, I now find myself questioning it. If the children brought to Narnia fail to contribute to the plot, then what purpose do they actually serve? I mean, I suppose the obvious answer would be that this is meant to be a narrative about how things that are clear in principle can be muddy when applied to real life, or about how easy it is to fall to temptation. And in theory I can accept that. But while I do accept that there’s probably a thematic reason for the children being so useless, there is a part of me wondering what it would be like to have a book with Reepicheep and Puddleglum as the main adventurers. Now that there is an absurd scenario that I would love to see.

Another thoroughly solid fantasy adventure. Puddleglum is another gem of a Narnian, even though he doesn’t quite match up to the majesty that was Reepicheep. The children are more or less useless in terms of actually focusing and getting stuff done in the narrative, but if you consider The Silver Chair as more a contemplation of temptation then it does feel a bit more understandable. 4/5

Next review: Keeping It Real by Justina Robson

Signing off,
Nisa.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis

Having been pleasantly surprised by Prince Caspian, I found myself rather looking forward to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader considering that this was another direct follow-up story. There was a part of me made just a little wary though, due to a particular line in the blurb where it describes how Edmund and Lucy are accompanied by “their awful cousin Eustace”. Just how awful were we talking here?

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader follows the younger half of the four Pevensie siblings, Peter and Susan now apparently too old to journey to Narnia, and their stuck-up cousin as they are sucked into Narnia through a picture in their aunt’s house. They find themselves reunited with Caspian, who has pledged to journey into the uncharted waters of the East, hoping to find the men who were driven away by his uncle several years before, and possibly even as far as finding the country where Aslan originates at the easternmost region of the world.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is an interesting one in comparison to the preceding book, specifically that they seem to swap strengths and weaknesses. While Prince Caspian was strong on plot but a bit disappointing when it came to vivid characters, Voyage of the Dawn Treader does some really solid characterisation and development arcs whereas the plot is choppy at best.
I think I’ll start with the plot, get that part out of the way. I think that the manner of the journey that is taken here severely limits what sort of coherence the plot and tone can have. Because the characters are essentially exploring uncharted waters, it’s more or less a string of short stories as opposed to one overarching plot. Each of the individual story sections as they find a new island to explore is well crafted in and of themselves, but there is a definite stop-start sort of feel to the overall narrative because of the defined limits set by having each section on a separate island or stretch of sea.
The deficiencies of the plot are definitely made up for though by the characterisation. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader does two things really well. First, Eustace has a great character arc, going from the kind of child that reminds me of all the reasons that I never want to be a parent, to a human being not automatically destined to become an obstructive bureaucrat. It’s nice to see him learn from the bad consequences of his petty bullying, and realise that he might not actually be someone that people like and that maybe he isn’t the one reasonable person in the group. Second, it made me sad that there isn’t more of Reepicheep in the Chronicles of Narnia. Seriously, whatever I dislike about the plot or the writing style in this series, it’s all made up for by the inclusion of Reepicheep. He’s a giant talking mouse who acts more or less like an Errol Flynn character, whisker twirling and all. What’s not to like? And while the fate that he gets does make me simultaneously smile and feel a little weepy, it makes me sad that he’s unlikely to reappear in the series again. Everything needs more Reepicheep.

While the plot is a bit choppy due to the whole exploring uncharted islands thing, I think that whatever deficiencies you may find with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader‘s story are more than made up for by the excellent character work. Hell, Reepicheep is worth the price of admission alone. 4/5

Next review: Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie

Signing off,
Nisa.

Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis

Up until I decided to finally read through the Chronicles of Narnia, I hadn’t really felt much of an urge to read Prince Caspian. I mean, after The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe it is the most well-known of the books, but that’s not saying much. Most people I knew growing up had only ever read that most famous entry of the series. But the fact that it’s a direct follow-up to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe did give me some hope, seeing as it was the book that I liked most thus far.

Prince Caspian follows the Pevensie siblings, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, when they are summoned back into Narnia. Once they arrive, they find that it has been centuries since they ruled the land as kings and queens, and the land has been invaded by a corrupt and superstitious race of men. The boy who should be the rightful heir of this kingdom, the Prince Caspian of the title, has been deposed by his power-hungry uncle and is now fighting to take back Narnia for the talking animals and magical creatures who used to call it home. The siblings soon decide to help the would-be king defeat his uncle and put things right.
While I will say that Prince Caspian does suffer from the same briefness that bothers me about the other books in the series, I am more than happy to say that it blows The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe out of the water. While the White Witch is a more formidable enemy than King Miraz and his court of backstabbers, the challenge seems quite a lot greater than it did in the earlier book. In Prince Caspian, the protagonists are working from a much weaker position: the golden era of their own rule is so far in the past that it has passed into legend, so much so that the invaders’ initiative to overwrite Narnian history is successful enough that there are many, even amongst the talking animals and magical creatures, who have stopped believing that they or Aslan even existed. Considering that my main issue with The Horse and His Boy is that it came across as having some rather racist tones, I was rather pleasantly surprised that the next book of his that I read had this kind of anti-colonial stance to it. There’s an implicit sort of belief regarding a kind of authority through birth-right which is a bit old-fashioned, but the erasure of culture stuff is quite fascinating really.
On top of that, Prince Caspian manages to combine some solid adventure and battle scenes with some surprisingly subtle faith-based subplots. While I do question the ending a little in regards to what happens to Peter and Susan, I think that Prince Caspian is a definite improvement from the last installment that the Pevensie siblings were involved in.

Overall, I found that Prince Caspian builds nicely on the foundation provided by The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. On top of being a solid children’s adventure story, it has an interesting anti-colonial slant going on, with its whole “history is written by the winners” element of backstory. Definitely one to show the kids after they’ve finished The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. 4/5

Next review: Priestess of the White by Trudi Canavan

Signing off,
Nisa.

The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis

So back on the Chronicles of Narnia, and the book that I never managed to finish when I was younger: The Horse and His Boy. I seem to remember picking it up at some point, but it can’t have made a huge impression at the time, seeing as I managed to forget that half of the main cast existed. This time I was paying more attention though.

The Horse and His Boy follows Shasta after his fateful meeting with a talking horse. Trying to console himself when he overhears the man who had raised him preparing to sell him into slavery, he discovers that his would-be master’s horse, Bree, is from Narnia. Kidnapped as a foal, Bree has been longing to return to his homeland for as long as he can remember, but has never had the chance due to the oddity of being a warhorse without a rider. Without a moment to lose, they find themselves travelling north across the great desert at the edge of the Kingdom of Tashbaan, meeting with more runaways as they go.
I want to like this more than I do. In many ways The Horse and His Boy is a solid fantasy adventure. There are battle scenes, races across the desert, daring escapes and, seeing as it is a Narnia story, some magic courtesy of Aslan. That all works quite well, the battle scene towards the end being the main exception (it’s odd reading about a battle in the style of football commentary is all I will say on the matter). There is one thing though that makes the whole thing just a little bit uncomfortable: it does feel more than a little bit racist. You have the fair-haired, pale-skinned boy running away from the corrupt, tyrannous and warlike empire that would see him become a slave, all full of dark-skinned people would you believe. Even the main character native to Tashbaan doesn’t excuse this, as it pulls the trick that a lot of medieval European texts did: find an example of a noble individual of this Other culture, an exception if you will, then have them renounce their former culture. It makes the whole experience quite skin-crawlingly uncomfortable. I liked Aravis at the beginning, when she had the attitude of an arrogant princess despite her desperate situation trying to escape a loveless match with a man old enough to be her grandfather. But by the end, you can see her disappearing into this new culture like her former country didn’t exist and it just doesn’t sit right with me.

A solid children’s adventure marred by being surprisingly racist in tone. If you’re looking to read this one to actual children, you may find that this could be a dealbreaker. I know that it does make me feel quite uncomfortable. 2/5

Next review: The Twisted Root of Jaarfindor by Sean Wright

Signing off,
Nisa.

Darkside by Tom Becker

I can only conclude that I got Darkside as a present at some point, because I really don’t remember picking it up myself. For one thing, the blurb is far too vague to really raise any interest whatsoever. For another, there’s something about the cheesy cover obviously aimed at young boys that would normally put me off from picking it up (although I do appreciate that the glow-in-the-dark bits aren’t really intended for my demographic). Figured it might still be worth a look since I inexplicably owned it anyway. 

Darkside follows a teenage boy named Jonathan in the wake of one of his father’s episodes of catatonia. After resigning himself to another period of waiting for his father to come round to his normal, though only slightly more verbal, self, Jonathan finds that there is something hunting for him and it appears to be connected to his father’s illness and his mother’s disappearance. To find out what is happening, Jonathan must travel to the Darkside, a secret part of London where Jack the Ripper’s descendants reign supreme, and try to find out what’s going on before he’s taken away or even killed. 
There was a lot of promising material here. Which makes it really frustrating when I say that Darkside is a completely uneven mess. You have no idea how difficult it was just trying to summarise the novel’s premise up there, because by the time you get to the end of the book and look back on the whole thing, you can see plot-holes large enough to drive a truck through and it just comes across as a string of events that just kind of happen because the author says so. For example, the whole being hunted across London thing? Turns out that Jonathan is meant to be part of some weird zoo/gladiatorial pit kind of show. But that stops mattering all that much because when in Darkside, he and his allies find that he’s also wanted by one of the most dangerous men in the city for completely different reasons. And that second guy’s reasoning for wanting him is also completely ridden with plot-holes: turns out that Jonathan picked up this guy’s knife and said assailant wants his property back. Problem is that he dropped the knife in a hospital. Anyone could have picked the sodding thing up, but no, he just somehow knows that it’s this specific kid and even knows his name. Why? We never find out! I mean, if you want this kid to be sought after by two separate parties, then just pick the one reason. The gladiatorial zoo thing could have been dropped so easily without having to rework the plot that much, and considering that you have both a secondary protagonist and antagonist tied pretty much solely to that section that’s a really worrying lapse in editorial decision-making. Really though, it shouldn’t have been there in the first place. All it serves to do is introduce a villain who is vaguely creepy-looking and gets beaten to a pulp in his second appearance, and introduce a protagonist who tags along after being rescued and not really doing much. It could have been so much sleeker, more interesting and less confusing if you just went for “the kid picks up a knife that two or more parties want possession of”. It really should not be that difficult. And that’s just one point of contention plot-wise. Why does Jonathan insist that he has to find out about his mother from his father, when there are non-comatose people who knew her that he could ask? Why does that one mundane police officer suddenly have a revelation right at the end for no real reason? Does the mental institution not notice that its patients are being picked off one by one, or do they just not care? 
And another thing. The setting. Darkside could be a really cool place to set a story in. The supernaturally dark underbelly of London that has pretty much stayed in the Victorian era, where it’s very much a survival of the most ruthless kind of attitude. Except that there are an extraordinary number of people there with a massive conscience. Carnegie, the lycanthropic private investigator that Jonathan allies himself with, considers himself honour-bound to help this kid he’s never seen before because his dad helped him in a tight spot once (not that it’s ever elaborated on). Marianne, the bounty hunter hired to kidnap Jonathan, frequently expresses regret that she’s paid to kidnap children and keeps one of her henchmen in service because she feels that she is responsible for him after an unnamed accident of some kind. Raquella, the main bad guy’s maidservant, helps Jonathan for no real reason at all. Honestly, a setting where Jack the Ripper is the ancestor of their royal family and where time hasn’t moved on from the questionable societal norms of Victorian England, I was expecting something quite a lot more brutal. Sure, I get that it’s for kids, but these should not come across as nice people. Carnegie, maybe, but the rest? It removes the teeth from what could be a really creepy setting. 
Finally, just a small thing that pissed me off the whole way through. Carnegie is, as I mentioned above, a lycanthrope, also known as a werewolf. He insists on being referred to as a wereman. For those of you unfamiliar with the etymology of the phrase werewolf, the were in werewolf is an Old English word meaning man. So what is evidently intended to be a clever little spin on old folklore is instead made ridiculous by having the werewolf refer to himself as a man-man. Considering that I learnt that off of a kid’s show when I was growing up, my faith in this author’s researching ability has plummeted through the floor. Although considering the rest of the novel, maybe we can just assume that my estimation of this writer is currently at a sub-basement level. 
Honestly, Darkside‘s total ineptitude wouldn’t irritate me as much as it does if some of the ideas behind it weren’t kind of interesting. But while a darker, supernatural version of Victorian London could be really cool, it’s ruined by a plot that is overloaded and nonsensical, too many characters with morals and a basic misunderstanding of werewolf lore. If I hear of any of you giving this to children, I will be severely disappointed in you. Just because it’s aimed at young boys doesn’t excuse poor writing. 1/5 
Next review: Past Mortem by Ben Elton 
Signing off, 
Nisa. 

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

Back to the Chronicles of Narnia I go. So after the unbalanced experience of The Magician’s Nephew, there was a lot more for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to prove for me. Perhaps a little unfair of me, but then it has a big old reputation to support as well.

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe the reader follows a set of four siblings sent to the English countryside as part of the evacuation process during World War 2. Whilst exploring the grand house where they are now living, the youngest child, Lucy, ventures into a seemingly ordinary wardrobe and finds that it leads to the magical world of Narnia. Things are not as they should be though, as Narnia is now stuck in an eternal state where it is always winter and never Christmas, caused by the magic of the White Witch. After Lucy’s friend Mr Tumnus is taken away to the White Witch’s castle, the siblings are spurred into action against the evil dictator. But there may be complications as Edmund, the younger brother, finds himself tempted to the White Witch’s side by promises of power.
In comparison to The Magician’s Nephew this is a much more balanced affair. While there is still a sense of directness and a real lack of build-up, but it doesn’t feel quite so abrupt and out of place here. Additionally, there were no scenes where the quality differed massively from the rest of the book, and the plot overall is just stronger. My main issue is that the characterisation of the siblings is very much on the sparse side. To be honest, the only reason that I could tell Peter and Susan apart was their gender; otherwise they were pretty much indistinguishable in terms of personality. The only one who really stood out was Edmund, if only because initially he was the kind of nasty little bully that really puts me off of the idea of ever having children. I’m also more than a little confused by the fact that Narnia has Christmas, but I think that that is an issue more particular to me and my nitpicking ways.

Overall, a solid story with a even tone and level of quality throughout. A bit simplistic for my tastes, especially in terms of characterisation, but it still serves their purpose well enough. Deserving of its reputation as a piece of classic children’s literature. 3.5/5

Next review: Needful Things by Stephen King

Signing off,
Nisa.

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