I love the 'Chronicles of Narnia'. While there are things to be critical of CS Lewis' series (see Phillip Pullman) there is also so much to admire. Quite simply, Narnia weaves a certain kind of timeless magic. So, I think it is incredibly brave for Piers Torday to use, specifically, 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' as a template to tell something new in 'The Lost Magician'. Thankfully, he manages, creating a story that is highly imaginative and highly relevant for today. 


Replace Narnia with Folio: a world where the Reads are at war with the UnReads. Story and fairy-tale characters are under threat from information, but also from a lot more too. Instead of a wardrobe, our post-war children enter a magical library. The only trouble is, is that the librarian, the magician (Aslan?), has gone missing...

This really shouldn't have worked. Fortunately it does. I really enjoyed seeing the parallels between this and the 'Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe', which I suppose is the point: everything we read, everything we write exists in the imagination, and so we compare. Folio, in this regard, is the imagination. Once this is understood, then the adventure can really be enjoyed for its sense of fun and mischief. I love that there is a unicorn called Roderick, whose story is unfinished. He felt like a character from Discworld; sort of tongue-cheek but also so hilariously realized. I'm not sure what CS Lewis would have made of such a character. CS Lewis was perhaps a little more serious, and the archetypes he used more deliberate (see 'Planet Narnia' by Michael Ward).


This is what makes 'The Lost Magician' different: it is more fun, more open-minded and arguably more wildly imaginative. This has its issues, however, in that I felt that everything (the whole of the imaginative world of children's fiction) had been thrown at it. In this way it is similar to Discworld too, which, I guess, is no bad thing! This is a source of delight but, with so many characters, can also can feel a little overcrowded. Nevertheless, 'The Lost Magician' is immensely enjoyable and at its heart there is an important message about why we read, and the power and diversity of the imagination. Every child should read it and discuss its themes. I will look forward to seeing how Piers Torday builds upon this world in the next book. The possibilities seem endless! 'The Voyage of the Dawntreader' perhaps?

Also, I'm very intrigued to know if Torday has read any of Owen Barfield's essays and books on the imagination. He heavily influenced CS Lewis, and he is included in the 'Lost Magician' in the name of the house: Barfield Hall. Was this deliberate? I can only imagine...


© 2021 by Chris Soul