Thursday, October 19, 2017
ThrowBook Thursday: Narnia Audio Part 2 (Full Audio Rankings)
This is a conclusion to a two-part series begun in last month's ThrowBook Thursday. Check out the brief reviews of the first four Narnia books (that I listened to for this re-read) there.
I am including last month's rankings, adjusted to include the last three books. I'll only add notes for the books not covered last month, namely The Magician's Nephew; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; and The Last Battle. (Has anyone ever noticed that Prince Caspian is the only Narnia title to not begin with "the"?)
7. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe read by Michael York
How?! How did we pair Michael York with Narnia and get this? I expected to adore Michael York's reading because I typically enjoy him on-screen. Instead, I found his urbane style making large portions of Lewis' prose come across very condescending rather than the knowing winks that Lewis gives his readers (where he reveals that he understands life as they do). His Aslan is pitiful and his voices for Lucy and Susan are not that great. He does offer some fine voices for Tumnus and the Beavers, but I've listened to this one twice now and . . . I don't want to listen again. That's a sad state of affairs considering how iconic this book is and how dear it is to me.
6. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader read by Derek Jacobi
5. Prince Caspian read by Lynn Redgrave
4. The Magician's Nephew read by Kenneth Branagh (whose name is pronounced very differently than I thought)
I thought this one was going to rank higher before I listened to it again. It's the first Narnia I listened to on audio, and one of the first audio books I listened to ever. Branagh is the perfect Uncle Andrew. Hands down. If they don't hire him for the film, I don't know what I'll do. His reading of the book pulls you into the story and the time period perfectly. He has the perfect balance of fairy tale and adventure in the tone he uses. His Aslan is not as powerful as the readers who are ranked above him (Northam, Stewart, and Jennings), but he still understands the emotions of Aslan's character in this book. His rendering of Aslan's words to Digory is spot-on. (Why didn't we get Branagh for LWW?)
1. (tie) The Silver Chair read by Jeremy Northam
1. (tie) The Last Battle read by Patrick Stewart
Stewart is my favorite Aslan in these audio books. I worried that might have changed since I last listened to these books, but it hasn't. Stewart is also one of the most skillful readers in this series. With the exception of the mice (who are too squeaky for me), he presents every voice with perfect skill. His reading of the narration speeds up when things are tense and slows down when things are peaceful. He makes you feel every fear and joy the characters experience. I want Stewart to replace Liam Neeson as Aslan in The Silver Chair.
1. (tie) The Horse and His Boy read by Alex Jennings
Okay, I realize that I have (kind of) cheated by having a 3-way tie for best Narnia audio, especially when two of them were not tied last month. However, when it came down to definitively ranking the series, I could not choose among these three. All three readers are fine Aslans and none of them makes me dislike the book (the way Jakobi and York almost did). These three I would pick up to listen to again in a heartbeat. (I would also listen to MN again without much convincing, and Prince Caspian wouldn't take much convincing.) I did order them in roughly ascending order of preference, with HHB winning out because I will never not read this book, LB coming next for Stewart's skillful narration and perfect Aslan, and SC coming third because Northam just can't compete, as wonderful as he is.
If you have listened to any of the Narnia audio books or FotF radio adaptations, what did you think? Do your rankings match mine? Tell me all about it below!