The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis

84369*This Review does contain Spoilers

Novel Facts:

  • Published: September 4th, 1956
  • Publisher: The Bodley Head
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Series: The Chronicles of Narnia
  • Pages in Paperback: 118
  • Preceded by (chronologically): The Silver Chair
  • Quote: “The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”
  • Goodreads
  • Amazon/Barnes and Noble/Book Depository
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Plot:

Many Narnian years have passed since Eustace and Jill helped ensure the Royal line. But when they are jerked back violently into the strangest of lands they find the present King in danger and Narnia facing its darkest hour. With Eustace and Jill at his side, the King, the noble unicorn Jewel and a few remaining loyal subjects must stand fast against the powers of evil and darkness and fight the Last Battle to decide the future of this glorious Kingdom.

Review of the Characters:

King Trinian— You got to feel bad for the guy, here he is– king of Narnia and having a jolly time when the antichrist in the form of an ape comes to spoil it for him. I also really admired his determination, if I was him I would have given up at the utter lack of hope in each situation but King Trinian presses on and fights for the beloved Narnia. He was a more fleshed out character than Prince Caspian and Rillian in the sense that he was actually flawed. He acted on impulses instead of reason several times in the beginning of the novel which contributed to the overall fate of Narnia. Even with this though I felt as if he were a place holder, his only purpose was to be our eyes to the happenings in Narnia. I felt bad for him because he certainly had a lot on his plate but never once did I feel his pain, feel his joy. As a protagonist it’s kind of essential to establish such a connection with the reader but Lewis wasn’t as concerned about connecting to the readers. (I’ll get to that later).

Jewel—  A unicorn! Finally, in my opinion a unicorn was very much missing from Lewis’s other works. I mean, it’s Narnia for goodness sakes; a place full of centaurs, fawns, dryads I kept wondering when a unicorn would make his appearance and low and behold Jewel trots my way. His relationship to the King was endearing and actually helps heighten the King as a character. Again, though there’s no real connection to Jewel; I couldn’t sympathize with him. I’m not exactly sure Jewel moved the story forward at all which kind of reveals the fact that Lewis’s main focus was not the characters. He had something to say in this story and instead of using characters like Jewel to enhance it, he kind of just threw them in there to react to it.

 Shift— Meet our antichrist, our ape, our reason for the ending of Narnia as we know it. Hate him already? Yeah I did too. From the first page his cunning ways and exploitation of Puzzle  leaped out from the page, almost demanding the reader’s hatred. And unlike Eustace in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Shift has none of the endearing wit in his comments, just an obvious sense of selfishness which I guess makes sense since Lewis never meant to redeem Shift like he did with Eustace. Also, I wasn’t kidding about the antichrist bit, Shift is an allegorical reference to the antichrist talked about in the novel. His clever tongue and plan soon have all of Narnia (a bit far-reaching if you ask me) convinced that Aslan wants to sell everyone into slavery and let the Calormenes rule. He talks of Aslan and Tash (the god that the Calormenes worship) being one deity equating Aslan to half man/half bird beast. Basically, he soon has the majority of Narnia questioning their faith (as no one has seen Aslan for hundreds of years) and exploiting their weaknesses. It was interesting the way his words worked on the crowd but also frightening the way how easily they worked, I’m pretty sure Lewis was saying something about humanity with that…

 Puzzle— I really, really, really loved Puzzle even though I know I shouldn’t. It is because of his ignorance that the ape is able to work his scheme and I can’t excuse it. Let me explain. In the beginning it is proven how low Puzzle thinks of himself in terms of brain power. He believes himself incredibly stupid especially standing next to his best friend Shift, but Puzzle has a very good heart. He always acts with the best intentions and strives to be a good friend. Therefore his ignorance is supposed to be forgiven and usually I would not be okay with that. I don’t care how bad Shift made you feel about not pretending to be Aslan Puzzle, don’t do it! You know nothing good will come of it, but of course all Shift has to do is say he knows more than Puzzle and Puzzle simple nods his head and goes along with it. I was not happy at first with the way that played out but Puzzle’s personality is so redeeming. He is really the only character in which I had a personal connection, I felt scared for him when he was in danger from the crowd and I felt bad for him when had to face Aslan after everything he had done. So even though the initial thought behind Puzzle annoys me, his personality won me over in the end.

Review of the Story:

This story is much different from the rest of the Chronicles of Narnia in the sense that Lewis wasn’t trying to give us more of Narnia, he was trying to end it and as such The Last Battle had a much darker tone than most Narnian fans would expect. The story is heart breaking, truly, from the first page to the last it’s filled with lack of hope and a frailty. The other books were light and gave you a feeling of preservation and determination, as if good could conquer all. That was not present in this novel and I guess it could be expected with the title The Last Battle, I mean, that pretty much screams impending doom. However, reading a book where every fight is lost, every plan vanquished and every hope lost is not a fun read. It’s hard to enjoy because there’s no rollercoaster for the reader, we start at sad and stay at sad.

I should  note that I may be a bit biased having just read all of the other books in this series so I may not have perspective. But who wants to see Narnia end? When Aslan (finally) came out and started ending the world I was bewildered and horrified at the same time. His imagery is very powerful too so it just adds to the horror of seeing our beloved land skinned by giant lizards and dragons and covered in giant waves and flame; then finally the horrible part, darkness. Empty, quiet, darkness. If I was a bit younger I would have been bawling. How could Lewis make us so attached to this place just to give is such an ending? Then we are introduced to the ‘real’ Narnia (Heaven) and it  issuppose to be bigger and better than our old one but I couldn’t understand how Lewis would even try to substitute it.

As a reader it felt like taking a toy with a loose screw to a parent to fix but instead of fixing the parent deems it beyond repair and stomps on it until it is beyond recognition before your very eyes. Then they hand you a new toy, a better toy, but you still can’t get that image out of your head; you just keep seeing something you loved die a horrible death. That’s what it felt like so when we were supposed to be happy because we’ve reached Salvation I couldn’t buy into it.  Once again, I think this is proof that Lewis’s intent was not to deliver an epic tale in the land of Narnia but rather retell a biblical story.

Review of the Writing:

I have to say, Lewis delivers some of his best imagery in his conclusion to the series. I particularly liked this passage where Lewis describes the stars falling out of the sky, The last few seconds before the rain of stars had quite ended were very exciting. Stars falling all around them. But stars in that world are not the great flaming globes they are in ours. They are people. So now they found showers of glittering people, all with long hair like burning sliver and spears like white-hot metal rushing down to them out of the black air, swifter than falling stones. They made a hissing noise as they landed and burnt the grass. And all these stars gliding past them and stood somewhere behind, a little to the right.”  Lewis makes you see (and even smell) it all as it’s happening and although we may not want to (it is the end of the world after all) it’s captivating to read.

From the first line of the first page you can tell this novel is a reference to the End of the World biblical passage. We go through the antichrist, judgement day and get to find out who’s been naughty or nice. I didn’t mind the biblical allusion, just for imagery’s sake it was fascinating to read. The animals either got to enter the doorway to Aslan’s country or fade into his shadow into land unknown. Then there is Aslan’s country itself or rather Heaven where Lewis toys with a bit of Plato in the sense that “there are worlds upon worlds”. This new place is the real Narnia and it is better and bigger than ever before. The way Lewis puts it is quite nice as he says their past adventures were just the title page and this is chapter one. For wanting to tell this biblical story, he did a good job. However, I do feel he sacrificed many elements to do so like characters and plot development to accomplish this feat. I think Lewis knew what he was doing though, it seemed like he was done talking about Narnia, now he was going to finish it. (Much to our dismay).

Lets talk about the shed next. The shed in which Puzzle was first contained and thusly Narnia thought contained Aslan started off as a normal shed but slowly evolved to so much more. It soon became this tangent of the story in which everything else revolved around. When it was discovered that something was in the shed, either Aslan or Tash, everyone was scared to enter it and desperate never to do so. Some people who went in came out scarred forever but some that went in simply did not come out ever again. The shed started to represent death and what do people fear most about death? The unknown, we don’t what we will face when we die and that is the most frightening aspect of all (that and the fact that it’s permanent). We soon learn that three things lie after death or in the shed and it depends on your belief. If you believe in Aslan (christianity) then Heaven awaits you; if you believe in Tash (the devil) then a type of hell awaits you. Then there are the agnostics and what waits them is nothing. We see a group of dwarves who believe in nothing thrown into the shed and all they see is the inside of a dark shed. So basically, what you believe is what you get. It’s an interesting concept.

There was a part that I was confused on and I include it in this section because I felt Lewis intended it to have deeper meaning which must have gone right over my head. When we get to heaven we see all our pasts protagonists: Peter, Edmund, Lucy, Jill, Eustace, Polly and Digory. Oh, wait I forgot Susan– actually no I didn’t. Lewis wrote Susan as someone who is no longer friend to Narnia. She no longer believes in Aslan and is obsessed with being a teenager I guess. Okay (I’m getting to my point, I promise), at the end of this novel it is discovered that the reason all the protagonists are in Heaven, is because they died in railway accident along with their parents. Say what? Yeah, that was my reaction, but for Christians eternal life is everything so no one is upset about it which if fine with me but what about Susan? She has now lost her whole family and I can’t help but feel like Lewis wrote it that way on purpose to punish for no longer believing. Am I reading too much into this? I’m no fan of Susan, never have been but I’m not sure how I warrant wanting to act grown up calls for the death of your family members. Any insight?

Rating:

Lewis was done with the Chronicles of Narnia before this novel and that’s why it misses so much of the magic that enchants the rest of the series. A much darker tone haunts this tale and as such it missed the connection with the marketed reader (children) and weaves a sad tale. A tragic ending to an epic series, The Last Battle more than likely won’t be one I read again.

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Overall Rating:

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P.S.– My next read is The Stand by Stephen King (I’m already scared)!

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17 thoughts on “The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis

  1. Very interesting review. I’d like to say that I do think you are over-thinking things a little with Susan. it wasn’t a punishment for Susan to lose her siblings, it was the natural outcome of her childish decision to stop believing in Aslan and Narnia (when she has every reason not just to believe but to know that it is real). Because she decides to turn her back on the truth in order to live however she wants, she wasn’t there with the other friends of Narnia to go with them to heaven and be reconnected with all their old friends in the Narnian heaven. Lewis is just showing the cause and effect of our decisions. And as for the story starting sad and staying sad, that is the way the biblical end of times is. All battles and hope are lost, the world falls into terrible darkness and then is wiped away leaving a new and better heaven. The book is an excellent representation of this (darkness that just gets worse until God stops it and replaces the world with something better).

    • Interesting insight, that makes a lot of sense: Susan wanted reality and so she ended up with reality. I just can’t help but feel bad that she lost her entire family in one stroke and that her family doesn’t seem to think about that.

      You’re right, this was an accurate representation of it’s biblical reference I just don’t think Lewis was thinking of connecting to his audience (marketed as children) with this novel, he was more interested in retelling this biblical story. Which is fine, it made for an interesting read but it was unexpected as all the other Narnia novels had the whimsical element and endearing characters that a child can’t help but adore.

      I really appreciate your comments, thanks for taking the time to read my post! 🙂

      • I’ve got to agree with you Lindsey. I was really disappointed to see Susan punished in this way. I can understand the point Lewis was making since he was radically Christian and these books are thinly veiled allegories, but as a literary critic and, more importantly, as a child-now-woman who grew up reading the series, I gotta say it was a sad blow to take. I once read a one-chapter fanfiction, sort of like an inner monologue or whatever, of Susan’s perspective after her family died. It was really interesting. Do I think she’s foolish for not believing in Narnia and doubting Aslan, especially given her experiences? Of course. Did I even like her character in The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe or Prince Caspian? Not at all! BUT she is very interesting, as most “fallen” characters are. Also, the end times section was morbid! I don’t only like “happy” ending books, I love lots of heartrending ones, but this one was just too depressing for my taste. Sorry CS Lewis, we want Narnia back. GREAT review, really thorough and full of great points! Can’t wait to read your review of the Stand! 😀

      • I would love to read that piece of fan fiction if it’s still available to read! I guess I’m the kind of reader that needs closure (with few exceptions) so the Susan situation is driving me crazy. It’s just so tragic and hard to think that none of her family seemed to care. Thanks for reading (I know I rambled a lot in this one)! 🙂

    • Oh good, this is my first book in the horror genre so I’m a little nervous, but I’ve heard good things about it so I know I’ll be all right. (It’s a lonnnnng book though). Thanks for reading! 🙂

  2. I once heard Susan referred to as an unfinished tale, and I believe it to be the most accurate description. Remember, she still as her whole life ahead of her. If she’d been at the station, she wouldn’t have been allowed in to Heaven because of her rejection. Lewis gave her more time. And let’s face it, what she went through will certainly erase any trace of shallow teen quick, fast, and in a hurry. So I think that it isn’t that Susan won’t go to Heaven, but rather she required more time.

    Also, did you remember the reference to the falling stars when the Pevensie children were crowned? Awesome!

  3. C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series are among my favorite books. I knew The Last Battle was the end of the series, and I closed the book feeling sad that it was over, but I wanted to be there with the characters.

  4. I have had these books on my to-read shelf since the first Narnia movie was released. Now, because of this review, I realize I really, REALLY need to bump these up on my list of priorities!

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