Do you remember when you first read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis? Many people, like me, trace their love of fantasy fiction back to that moment. As I gobbled up each of the seven books of the Chronicles of Narnia series, I entered a world of knights, chivalry, valor, magic and wonder — that awakened in me a fresh wonder at the divine influence in all of life.
As I went on to other fantasy tales, largely by Christian authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien and Stephen Lawhead, I encountered more intricate worlds and elaborate tales than what I found in Narnia. But the overt symbolism in the first Narnian tale, hinted at so much more beneath the surface of the Narnia tales. Reading Lewis’ space trilogy I once again encountered symbolism that I couldn’t quite grasp, but that was alluring and powerful nonetheless.
So a few years ago, when I learned of a new book by Michael Ward entitled Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis, I was captivated and just had to get it. That scholarly tome, whose hardback edition boasted 347 pages and almost 60 pages of endnotes, was a delight to work through. Bit by bit, Ward shared the thrill of his discovery — the long sought after, unifying key to the Narnia stories. It was a bit of a chore to go through all the scholarly citations, but along the way I learned a great deal about all of Lewis’ works, not just the Narnian chronicles.
Now, however, the fruit of Ward’s scholarly research is available for a wider, general market audience. Based on an earlier documentary/DVD, Tyndale House has published an accessible paperback entitled The Narnia Code: C. S. Lewis and the Secret of the Seven Heavens.
I was able to pick up this smaller book from Tyndale. It’s only 191 pages with an easy to read font. To be sure, some of the finer points from Planet Narnia don’t find their way into the condensed edition. Still, one will find all the joy (and significance) of Ward’s discovery, a fascinating explanation of the pre-Copernican planetary model, and a detailed exposition of each Narnian chronicle according to the new insights gained from Ward’s study. The interested reader could certainly move on from The Narnia Code to Planet Narnia if he or she so chose, but most will be satisfied by the tale as told in the smaller work.
I don’t want to ruin the book by explaining in detail all of Ward’s discoveries. I will just note that he finds a planetary connection between Lewis the scholar’s appreciation for the pre-Copernican view of the planets as influencing mankind in various ways, and Lewis the author’s intricate method of creating a unique atmosphere that permeates each of his seven Narnian tales.
I can say this, however, you will be convinced by Ward’s discovery. And it will give new life to the Chronicles of Narnia. You’ll never read them the same way again. And Christ’s glory will be seen anew in all its wonder, illuminated in many small yet wonderful ways by Lewis’ intricate crafting of these wildly popular stories.
Before I close, let me recommend you see a short video clip of Michael Ward explaining his vision for The Narnia Code. I highly recommend the work. You can pick up a copy at Amazon with any Christmas money you’re itching to spend.
An expanded version of this review, with additional content and resources, will soon be available at CrossFocusedReviews.com.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Tyndale House Publishers for review. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.