Having finished Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I’ve decided that – while an enjoyable read – it doesn’t hang together as a story quite so well as other entries in the Narnia series.
I think this is partly to do with a piece of writing advice I encountered recently, which is that if you’re summarising your plot, scenes (or beats) should never be connected by words like “and then“; they should always connect by “therefore” or “but“. In other words, what happens next should always be a consequence of what has happened before.
The Dawn Treader has a variety of intriguing and significant adventures on various islands that they discover as they explore the seas to the (south-)east of Narnia, but each one (by nature of being on a separate island) is somewhat disjoint from the others. They could well occur in a different order without much effect on the overall plot, thus losing the consequential connection described in the previous paragraph.
The other thing that hampers it slightly is that the main motive of the plot is somewhat limited (“have adventures, explore, maybe find the missing lords”), and the lords crop up intermittently before the last three appear all at once at the end. This is Caspian and the crew’s motivation, but it never feels like Edmund and Lucy’s; as they are the relatable audience-connection characters, this detracts from the audience getting into the larger story.
It’s also one of the most overtly Christian of the books. Their experiences along the way seem rather “Pilgrim’s Progress”-style trials and temptations, and at the end Aslan appears as a lamb before turning back into a lion and all but saying “no more Narnia, time to grow up and call me Jesus”. It gives an interesting perspective on Peter and Susan’s remarks at the end of Prince Caspian (after presumably being told the same thing).
Still a fun story though.
Oh, and Reepicheep has been taking lessons from Scrappy Doo.