Every good story has a backstory. So in "The Magician's Nephew," C.S. Lewis backpedalled to tell us the story of how Narnia began, the origin of the White Witch, and various other little questions that popped up over the course of his Narnia series. The result is a tense, slightly comic prequel that neatly ties up the various loose threads.
Two London schoolchildren, Polly and Digory, meet and befriend one another, despite Digory's misery over his mother's fatal illness. But they fall prey to Digory's arrogant uncle Andrew -- Andrew has created some magical rings that transport the wearer to another world, and he wants the two as guinea pigs. Polly and Digory only narrowly manage to return from a dying world.
But they had an unwelcome passenger -- Jadis, an imperious sorceress who plans to take over the world. Polly and Digory are appalled at what has happened, and try to find some way of transporting Jadis elsewhere, using the magical rings. But when they do, they find themselves encountering a world that is just being created, by a strange lion -- the world of Narnia.
The Narnia stories are getting more attention in the months before the movie is released. And though it's unknown whether "The Magician's Nephew" is going to be on the silver screen, it's a valuable read for movie-watchers and readers alike. Basically, if "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe" raised any questions, then this can answer them.
"The Magician's Nephew" serves as a neat way of explaining some very weird occurrances -- where did that lamppost come from? Or the Narnian humans? Just where did the White Witch come from, since she doesn't seem to fit in Narnia's springtime utopia? This book pretty much tells it all, as well as providing a character -- Digory -- who is a quiet but important presence fifty years later.
But "The Magician's Nephew" isn't just a way of dealing with loose threads. It's also an entertaining story, full of strange magic and eerie dead worlds. But Lewis also includes some comedy, when Jadis is running amuck all over London, or when Narnian animals try to plant and water Uncle Andrew. Lewis does get a bit hamhanded with the allegory of Jadis and an apple, but the fast, tense storyline makes up for that.
"The Magician's Nephew" is not just a prequel to the rest of the Narnia series, but an entertaining fantasy novel in its own right. Definitely a must-read for fantasy fans.