The Rose Review
Treachery lurks at the edge of Caldron Pool beneath the great waterfall. A donkey swims after a skin, commanded by an old ape named Shift. Strange you might say, but nothing more, even when the ape sews the skin – a lion’s skin – into a coat for the donkey, Puzzle. It could seem like a kind gesture, but it’s purpose is far more terrible than any Narnian could imagine, including Puzzle.
It’s been a long time since the Narnians have seen Aslan. Over two hundred years since a son of Adam, and a daughter of Eve last came to Narnia. When rumor of Aslan’s return reaches King Tirian of Narnia and his dearest friend, Jewel the Unicorn, they are at first overjoyed. However, they find the stories are different this time; there are no children emerging from a different world, there is no Lion ridding Narnia of evil; instead, sacred trees are being felled, free talking beasts are becoming slaves, and Calormene workers enter Narnia – all by order of “Aslan”.
Within a few hours, Tirian is tied to a tree bleeding, Jewel is nowhere to be seen, and an ape is telling the talking beasts that are not working all about their wonderful future of slavery in Calormine. The ape, of course, is Shift, mouthpiece of “Aslan.” Stable Hill, where “Aslan” now resides in a stable near the Shift’s headquarters, is soon emptied as the night grows darker. The king, alone, in sight of the top of Stable Hill calls to the true Aslan begging him to send the Friends of Narnia – children who come when Narnia is in desperate need. His cry is answered after he wakes from a vision. Eustace Scrubb and Jill Pole are once again magically in Narnia.
With their help, Jewel is freed, and they find the ape’s “Aslan.” They soon find out that it is not enough; their revealing the false Aslan only makes most of the Narnians at first assume there is no Aslan at all. As they continue on with a few new friends, they find that the ape’s treachery runs deeper than even sending the talking beasts to work for the Calormenes.
When they reach Stable Hill where one of Shift’s Midnight Meetings (the time he shows the false Aslan to everyone and gives a speech) is going on they soon find that anyone who wants to, can go into the stable now to see the great Tashlan, for he revealed that Tash the Calormene’s god and Aslan are the same person. He cautions that Tashlan is very angry though. Narnians are almost forced through the stable door when Tirian emerges from the shadows. Not all the Narnians join him, in fact, some join the Calormenes for the Last Battle. Soon the Last Battle begins, but what is behind the stable door? Calormenes with swords? Or could it be that Tash has come for those who foolishly called him?
Jill, Eustace, and Trinian fight for their lives, and for Narnia, but soon all of them will have to face what is behind the stable door. Will help come before they are killed or thrown into the stable? But what happens when they die? Where will they find themselves when they pass through the stable door? For “in our world too, a stable had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.”
The Last Battle is an amazing book, and one of my favorite Chronicles of Narnia. It is a beautiful and real allegory to the end of our world as we know it. It is an amazing picture of what might happen when we say farewell to the Shadowlands.
Recommended Age: 8 yrs-98 yrs
Re-readable: Yes, if you have TIME (not the giant you might meet in this book, I doubt anyone does has him, he is not a tame giant I think)
The Jewel Review
Ages have passed since a son of Adam and a daughter of Eve listened as a Lion sang Narnia into being.
Ages since two daughters of Eve watched that Lion submit to mocking and murder for the sake of saving a traitor, their brother; since two sons of Adam, one of them the redeemed traitor, fought evil bravely to the point of death until the Lion rose and vanquished evil from the land.
Ages since an orphan discovered a talking horse and braved a journey into unknown lands at the thought of world of wonder, only to learn that world of wonder was where he truly belonged.
Ages since two brothers and sisters who felt their dream had ended learned “once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia” even as they worked to bring a new king to the throne.
Ages since an annoying cousin accidentally tripped into Narnia on his cousins’ heels, morphed into a dragon, and then into a boy whose heart bore the scars of his transformation.
Ages since two unpopular classmates, one of whom might have at one point been a dragon, attempted to follow instructions from a tawny Lion so that they might free a prince held captive by beguiling witchery.
The talking animals of Narnia have nigh forgotten the Lion, the Son of the Emperor across the Sea, who breathed upon them in the beginning and bid them to think and to speak. So when a foolish donkey listens to the counsel of an even-more-foolish ape to don the skin of a lion and use it to their own purposes, the talking animals believe Aslan has returned. And he is angry. Within days, treachery and slavery, horror and sorrow, abound.
And few … so few, too few … know the Lion’s true story well enough to understand that He would never return to ring in an age of horror and wrong. These few stand for truth, with only a son of Adam and daughter of Eve standing with them.
Waiting for the return of the real Aslan, hoping beyond hoping that it will be soon, before their world of Narnia is destroyed by evil. Before their world falls to shadow. These few who endure the Last Battle find the shadows recede as they journey further up and further into glory.
C. S. Lewis’ final book in the Chronicles of Narnia, as the preceding stories in the series, weave deep truths and spiritual parallels with fascinating fantasy and captivating characters to create a story that every parent should read. And, when they trust their children are ready, share with them the tales of a land where animals speak, where wardrobes lead to wintry wonderlands, where the Son of the Emperor beyond the sea awaits, at just the time appointed, to draw His children Home.
Farewell to shadowlands.
Recommended Age: 8 and up (depends on the sensitivity of the reader; the first time I read it, I cried in the scene with the dogs; still tears me up)