I’m disappointed that so many of my last novels of 2010 we so… 3 out of 5. Two of them:

Prince Caspian
The Narnia series are books I wish I’d read when I was 12, because now I can’t seem to enjoy them as much as everyone else does. Or at least I don’t have the special memories everyone reserves for books they loved but have outgrown (in my case, e.g. The Malory Towers).

As in the early Narnia books, I find myself resisting the Christian metaphors. In Prince Caspian it was especially difficult to suspend my cynicism because I’ve serious issues with blind faith and the whole “if you build it, they will come” philosophy. Many deaths could have been avoided if Aslan had decided to intervene earlier, but he decided he’d only come once… what? All Narnians believed he existed and were ready to apologize? Once everyone was ready to die? “Things never happen the same way twice” seemed a weak excuse. And didn’t you also get the feeling that in the end Peter and Susan were being punished for not believing?

On the other hand, I really enjoyed the feeling of gentle nostalgia surrounding the story. Returning to a beloved place that has changed forever and the realization that things do move on without you is a powerful lesson when you’re a kid. Those scenes where the four explore the ruins of Cair Paravel were great, and Lewis must have found them of particularly important because they take almost 1/3 of the story.

In the end I agree with the general opinion that C. S. Lewis is a great writer, and I’m still keen on ready the next in the series, even if it’s just to have my share in the conversation 😛

The Winter King: a Novel of Arthur (The Warlord Chronicles #1)
I get extremely frustrated with books told from the POV of undiscerning or extremely naïve characters (or worst: characters we’re told are smart but somehow never show it).

I’ve been finding that Arthurian and fantasy novels are particularly prone to this affliction (others I can think of now: The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart and Magician by Raymond E. Feist). The Winter King, no matter what the subtitle says, is not a novel of Arthur, but a novel of Derfel, the warrior-come-monk who is telling the tale. He doesn’t even spend that much time with Arthur, so what you get are second-hand accounts of the really important stuff or interpretations made by a character that’s not that politically astute (or interesting).

I could see where Bernard Cornwell was going with The Winter King: a “realistic” approach to the Arthurian legend that underlines that Britain in those days was far from chivalrous. But I felt he created realism at the cost of characterization. Artur is painted as a people’s person but at times is unbelievable blind towards the faults of others and women are either men-haters, mentally insane, coldly ambitious, beautiful serene virgins, or a combination of these.

I also got a bit confused with the realistic approach to religion and magic. From the start Cornwell hints that Pagans and early Christians alike are charlatans, but then tries to build tension around the rituals and prophesies. We see how a Priestess conned a mighty King, or how all the protection spells Merlin put around his rooms are mere show, but then we’re asked to believe in the magical bond between Derfel and priestess Numue and Merlin’s Great Quest.

Do you have any recommendation for good Arthurian novels?