This is a true adventure, full to bursting with imagination, wonder, heroism, and a salt spray of humor. The story follows the adventures of Edmund, Lucy, and the insupportable (but later quite wonderful) Eustace, their cousin as they are once again drawn into Narnia. This time it’s aboard one of the most memorable ships in all of literature, the titular, Dawn Treader with its dragon head and large purple sail.
There is a surprising amount of authenticity to the descriptions and events which happen to the characters both on the boat and upon the islands to which they travel. Reading about the storms, calms, water shortages, rowing, and cabin furnishings gives one all the joy and none of the sea-sickness of a real voyage.
Every location/episode is a story within itself so the book is episodic in adventure. This could easily have been several books had Lewis desired to explore some of the locations in more detail, but the brisk pace carries the explorers on to the next encounter usually after a chapter or two. Favorite scenes include Lucy reading the magic book, the water and light at World’s End, the appearances of Aslan (always wonderful throughout the series), the confrontation with Governor Gumpus, and Eustace’s dragon encounter.
This story is imagination and literary invention at its finest. If you’re looking for a sweeping plot or comprehensive arc you won’t find that here. What you will find is treasure more precious than that of many a pirate’s trove. This is a story for wanderers at heart, for the reader who simply wants to come “along for the ride”, for the armchair warrior who seeks adventure beyond the distant sunrise. There is value in simply listening to a story well told, about characters true of heart and noble of purpose (none moreso than Reepicheep, who, along with Eustace, is the real star of this novel), with a will equal to whatever challenges the wide sea might throw at them.
This story is best read slowly so that it may be savored. It may stir in you desires you did not even know you had: to experience the wonders of the world, to consider what duty you have to your family and community, to lay down your Eustace-like pragmatism and face reality as it truly is, not as your carefully crafted schedule and appointment book have led you to believe.
So what are you waiting for? Isn’t it about time you unfurled the sail, breathed in the briny breeze, and had an adventure?