The second volume of the Narnia Chronicles closed with the possibility of Lucy and Edmund -- though not their older siblings -- returning to Narnia. "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" makes good on that story, with the intrepid pair (plus a whiny cousin) returning on a strange sea voyage.
After the events of "Prince Caspian," Lucy and Edmund are sent off to stay with their obnoxious cousin Eustace. But when they admire a picture of a strange ship, suddenly all three kids are sucked in -- and land in a Narnian sea. On board the ship is King Caspian, now fully grown, who is determined to find a bunch of knights exiled by his murderous uncle, even if he has to go to the edge of the world (literally).
Lucy and Edmund are thrilled to be back in Narnia again, but Eustance proceeds to make trouble any way he can, complaining and causing trouble among the crew. But there are problems more horrifying than any of them can guess, from dragons to sinister "gold water" to a region filled with their worst nightmares.
"The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" is one of Lewis's most original and tightly-written Narnian adventures. It's also a bit of a break from form. After two books of battles against evil tyrants, "Voyage" simply goes where no man/woman/mouse has gone before, and gives us a view of the Narnian world as more than one isolated little region.
And in some ways, it's also the darkest Chronicle. Lewis explores the theme of greed here -- greed for power, beauty, money and magic -- and has some scenes both chilling and majestic. But his archly humorous style peeks through in several places, whether it's pompous mouse Reepicheep or tea with a reclusive old wizard.
Edmund and Lucy are their usual plucky selves, albeit a bit more mature than before. But "Voyage" also introduces one of Lewis' most interesting characters in Eustace Clarence Scrubb. Like Edmund, Eustace is initially a peevish, lying boy who generally makes trouble, but slowly learns his errors. But unlike Edmund, Eustace doesn't have to ally himself to the baddie to learn that.
"Voyage of the Dawn Treader" was a turning point for the Narnia Chronicles, as well as the one that began venturing into darker territory. Engaging and tightly written.