A Definitive Ranking of all the Chronicles of Narnia Books
Whether you love these nostalgic children's favorites or find them too preachy, we can all agree on which ones are the worst
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While the Chronicles of Narnia series might be a little polarizing—for some it’s a beloved childhood classic, for others it’s a cheesy Jesus-fest—I think we can all come to agreement on who is the worst Pevensie: Edmund. Another thing we can agree on is viciously pitting nostalgic pieces of media against each other to see who comes out on top. After vigorous research that involved both Wikipedia and Sparknotes I have compiled a definitive ranking of all of the books starting from worst to best.
This is the weakest link of the Narnia Chronicles. You know it, I know it, C.S. Lewis probably knew it while he was writing it. Not only are the Pevensies barely in it, but neither are any other recognizable characters. Instead, it follows a random boy named Shasta and his talking horse as they flee a life of servitude in Calormen, Narnia’s not-even-that-obliquely-racist neighbor. There’s a reveal of Shasta being a long-lost prince of a city we never hear of again, then an epic battle takes place between Archenland and Calormen. Lucy and Edmund cameo to send in reinforcements. Shasta becomes a prince and marries this girl he picked up along the way. The end.
Am I ranking the books I recall the least lowest? Possibly. But in my defense, if it was good then I would’ve remembered it. Everyone knows the it-was-all-a-dream trope. This book is its far worse cousin: everyone-was-dead-the-whole-time. Yes, the Pevensies—minus Susan for misogyny reasons we won’t get into—all die on a train, which is revealed at the end after yet another big battle. All you need to know is that a false God is masquerading as Aslan until he’s exposed and Narnia ceases to exist for the doubters while the true believers get to go to the “real” Narnia. What a way to end a series.
I care slightly more about characters I’ve seen before—although only half of the heroes of this book fit these criteria—so The Silver Chair ekes out a spot just above its predecessors. We open up with Eustace (from Dawn Treader, see below because it’s good) saving his classmate Jill Pole from getting picked on by some schoolyard bullies. They escape into Narnia with the help of Aslan, who immediately sends them on a quest to find King Caspian’s lost son, Rilian. They head north where Rilian was last seen looking for the green snake that killed his mother. Kid-eating giants, a marsh-wiggle, and an underground city of gnomes are some highlights of their adventure. There’s also a Lady in the Green Kirtle who is revealed to 1) be a giant snake and 2) have been keeping Prince Rilian under an enchantment. She is quickly slain by the ragtag bunch and everyone heads home to business as usual.
Since I read The Magician’s Nephew first it’ll always hold a mid-tier spot in my heart, even if it’s a cleverly marketed prequel written second-to-last. Here we get explanations—that don’t make any sense—for the important part of the series, which is the Pevensies and Narnia. Neighbors Digory and Polly are playing when they meet Digory’s weird Uncle Andrew, who tricks Polly into putting on a ring that causes her to disappear. She has been transported to a forest where every puddle is another universe. One puddle holds the White Witch, who follows them to London, but is then sent back and attempts to stop Aslan from creating Narnia. Polly and Digory set things right, then get sent home with an apple. The apple core sprouts into a tree which is then used for the wardrobe and Digory grows up to be the professor the Pevensies stay with.
Although my fond memories of Prince Caspian mostly surround my childhood crush on Caspian’s actor in the movie, it still holds up in comparison to what follows. The Pevensies are whisked away from a train station after a year in their time back to Narnia to aid Prince Caspian in his fight for the throne. Since they left Narnia, a thousand years have passed and the tyrannical Telmarines have taken over. Prince Caspian is the only hope to restore Narnia to its old glory, but he has been forced into hiding by his power-hungry uncle. Good eventually triumphs over evil, Narnia is restored. There’s a lot of boring war talks and fighting that ultimately make it deserving only of third place.
When I asked around for people’s personal favorites this one came up the most and I’d have to agree—even if Eustace is objectively The Worst™. This book has all of the fun of discovering new worlds and new characters in Narnia without nobody protagonists the drudgery of planning a war. While Peter and Susan are off being teenagers, Edmund and Lucy are still in the throes of that sweet, sweet youth Aslan loves so much, along with the annoying cousin Eustace they’re staying with. The trio fall into a painting of a boat and set on a seafaring adventure with King Caspian to search for seven lost lords. On their journey, Eustace communes with dragons to become a better person. They almost fall victim to a pool of water that turns things into gold and sail to the edge of the world, all along with a sword-wielding mouse called Reepicheep. Puss in Boots who?
Most of us are familiar with the first book, especially the part where Edmund sells out his family for subpar dessert. But this is the book where it all begins, the one that’s made the biggest mark, and we couldn’t possibly put anything else first. You already know the plot but if for some reason you don’t: four British siblings are sent away to the countryside during WWII. The youngest, Lucy, goes through a magical wardrobe to find Narnia, which is suffering an eternal winter cast by the White Witch. Lucy’s siblings soon follow her in, whereupon they meet Jesus’s fursona, Aslan, and rally an army to defeat the Witch. They rule Narnia for about fifteen years before falling back through the wardrobe and into their child bodies, forced to relive puberty a second time. Also freaking Santa Claus appears because apparently the White Witch banned Christmas, too. Everyone forgets that so we’re politely ignoring it and still putting this one first.
If you’re not tired of all this Narnia talk here are two fanfics that weren’t included in the official tally because they aren’t technically Narnia books and also they’d both end up at the top. If the most famous Narnia book is too obvious of a top choice for you, perhaps you’d like to read about Anthony Bourdain sampling the regional dishes of Narnia with his camera crew. Or follow Susan after her entire family dies and the kingdom she once ruled is inaccessible to her because she’s only interested in “nylons and lipstick and invitations.”