Prince Caspian is the second book in The Chronicles of Narnia, and it is quite a different read from the first (as well as my personal favorite in the series). Narnia is not the same as it once was, and it is up to the Pevensie children and their allies to restore Narnia to its former glory.
The story begins with the Pevensie children at the train station when they are suddenly pulled into Narnia. At first, they are not sure where exactly in Narnia they are, but they eventually realize they are standing in the ruins of Cair Paravel, the castle where they once reigned as high kings and queens during the Golden Age of Narnia. Although only a few years have passed in their world, it appears as though centuries have passed in Narnia. This is confirmed for the children later when they rescue Trumpkin the dwarf from a group of Telmarines who were going to execute him. Trumpkin informs the children of the state of affairs in Narnia: the old ways have been fading, the talking animals who still live have been in hiding, and the magic in Narnia has been weakening ever since the oppressive King Miraz came to rule. Trumpkin also tells the children, though, that the rightful heir of Narnia, Prince Caspian, is in hiding with the Old Narnians, and they are trying to restore him to his rightful throne and bring peace, prosperity, and magic back to Narnia.
A Darker Narnia
This book has a slightly darker feel to it than the first one. Although there is a very powerful tyrant in both books, in the first one, Narnia is still fresh and new not only to the Pevensie children, but also to the reader. Even though Narnia is being oppressed, there is still a sense of wonder throughout the book as we are introduced to fauns, centaurs, talking animals, nymphs, magic, and even Santa Claus. In Prince Caspian, however, these wonderful elements are taken from us, and there is a much more pervasive sense of hopelessness. In the first book, there were still actual Narnians in Narnia. In Prince Caspian, however, the Narnians are almost all either in hiding or dead, and the Telmarines have control of the land. Animals that used to be able to speak have become dumb, the trees are not as alive as they once were, and the small army of Old Narnians is no match for that of the Telmarines.
This is still a book for children, though, so while it is a darker read than the first, it’s not soul-crushingly depressing. Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy have become the kings and queens of legend, and their return to Narnia in this bleak time serves to restore hope to the Old Narnians and Caspian. Also, the Pevensies are ecstatic to be back in Narnia, so their joy is transferred to the reader, and Narnia becomes a little brighter.
How does the movie compare?
I have only seen this movie once, and that was when it first came out, so my recollection of its details is a bit fuzzy. I refuse, however, to ever watch this movie again because it butchered the book so thoroughly. Not only did it add events that never happened, but it also completely changed certain characters. For instance, in the book, Peter embodies everything a king ought to be: intelligent, resourceful, humble, mature, and just an overall wonderful leader. He gets along fantastically with Caspian, and the two of them become friends shortly after their meeting. In the movie, I found myself wondering how Narnia could possibly have thrived under the rule of such a brat: Peter is immature, belligerent, arrogant, and clashes with Caspian on multiple occasions. There is also a random, chemistry-devoid romance thrown in which angered me so much that I actually stood up and started yelling at the screen. I have several friends, however, who did enjoy this movie and found the action scenes to be quite entertaining. I enjoyed Reepicheep and Edmund, and Caspian is so good looking that it made the movie bearable, but those are essentially the only positive comments I have about this movie.
Why should you read this book?
If you enjoyed The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, chances are you will love this book. Prince Caspian just has so much more than the first book. There’s more action, more adventure, more character development, and more Narnia. It’s also a slightly more mature book than the first, so it might be more appealing to older readers. It is also one of the best, if not the best, book in the Narnia series, so it’s definitely worth a read.