The immediate follow-up to "Prince Caspian," "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" is one of C.S. Lewis' classic Narnia series, and contains all the magic, wonder and adventure of the others in the series. Maybe more.
Like most of the Narnia books, "Voyage" takes little time to get moving. Edmund and Lucy are staying with their mean and arrogant little cousin Eustace (Peter and Susan are excised from the story for being too old), when the three children are pulled into the world of Narnia. Edmund and Lucy are delighted to have arrived, but Eustace is bitter at the situation. He is made even more bitter because of where they appear: In the middle of the ocean, where they are picked up by King Caspian on his ship, the Dawn Treader.
Caspian is in the midst of a grand journey in which he is trying to sail to the end of the world. Tossed into the mix is his quest to find seven companions of his father, who fled Narnia when the bad folks from "Prince Caspian" took over. The entire plot is little more than an excuse to sail to lands unknown and explore the most fantastic sights Narnia has to offer. The story does not fail in that endeavor.
While it begins as Another Narnia Adventure, "Voyage" quickly becomes an exploration adventure of the most classic kind, an archetype of a tale in which every action drives the characters towards the next episode and the next land of wonder. Like other timeless tales of this type, the device is remarkably effective in keeping the reader's interest and repeatedly engage one's sense of awe.
Naturally, there are Lessons thrown in for good measure. Lewis can occasionally grate with moralizing, but "Voyage's" moral tales are not grating in the least. Most are tales that have been told time and again throughout mankind's history. Each island has its own little moral message, but they are subtle, fit with the story well, serve the sense of wonder the reader feels, and never intrude on the tale. That's a welcome thing.
In the end, no terrible bad guy is vanquished. No kingdom is won. Nobody turns out to secretly be royalty. None of that. It simply ends when the quest is done. And that end satisfies.
"The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" may be the very best of the Narnia books and a journey for the ages. Here, Lewis crafts a classic tale of a fantastic journey, and he does so with a finely balanced sense of pacing. "Voyage" never fails to be engaging and will surely delight readers both young and old.