If The Horse and His Boy is reminiscent of the Arabian Nights, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the Odyssey of Narnia, then The Silver Chair is the grand quest adventure of the series. It’s true that all the other books involve some sort of quest and/or a mission, but it’s The Silver Chair that has one that is truly in epic proportions that is more akin to The Lord of the Rings.
Eustace Scrubbs is the main hero, now a much less odious character after learning his lessons in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. This time, none of his Pevensie cousins are around to protect and guide him but he is accompanied by Jill Pole, a student from his school. Both of them hate their school and one day, as they run away from the school bullies, they find themselves in Narnia where the great Lion Aslan gives them a mission: to find the missing Prince Rilian, the son of Prince Caspian and heir to the throne of Narnia. Prince Rilian had disappeared then years earlier while on a quest to kill the evil serpent that had killed his mother. To help them accomplish their quest, Aslan gives Jill a set of instructions which he orders her to memorise.
Eustace and Jill are further aided in their quest by Puddleglum the marshwiggle, a race of frog-like humanoids that inhabit the marshes of northern Narnia. Puddleglum is perhaps one of the most distinctive and best remembered characters of the Chronicles. He is a caricature of pessimism and a bastion of gloomy fortitude. He is neither skilled in battle nor does he possess special skills desirable for a dangerous quest but he plays a big part in the success of that quest by simply being himself.
Their quest for the missing prince will take them far to the north in Ettinsmoor. Because Jill forgets her instructions from Aslan, they find themselves captured by the man-eating giants of Harfang, an episode that provides predictable but entertaining storytelling as the three heroes plot to avoid becoming the main dish for an imminent giant feast.
The companions eventually find themselves in Underland, the underground kingdom inhabited by gnomes and ruled by the evil Green Witch who is revealed to be the serpent that killed Rilian’s mother and now has Rilian under her spell.
The Silver Chair is a solid read from beginning to end, and is arguably the book that has the most universal appeal out of the seven Chronicles. It has a strong and archetypal good versus evil plot that is not overtly Christian which should please those who have criticised the Narnia books for their Christian allegories. It is also not hindered by plots and characters that may be construed as racist (see my review of The Horse and His Boy). In other words, The Silver Chair is a good old fashioned yarn of good triumphing over evil, and of courage and love winning the day.