Though the beloved Chronicles of Narnia series has been around for quite some time, readers new and old find themselves looking to explore C.S. Lewis’s enchanting world every year. But what’s the best way to read The Chronicles of Narnia books in order?
Should you read the series in its original publication order or chronologically? What about the movies? Should you read the books or watch the movies first or should you alternate them?
Needless to say, I’ll provide every which way to read The Chronicles of Narnia, and maybe even try to sway you, but how you choose to read this classic fantasy series is entirely up to you.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
First published in 1950, The Chronicles of Narnia didn’t rise in popularity until the early 2000s.
With the first movie releasing in 2005, talk of Turkish delights and fauns spread like wildfire. Children everywhere pressed against the backs of their closets and dreamed of finding adventure on the other side.
This classic British series is well-known for its lamppost, magical wardrobe, and wise lion. Even though it’s marketed for ages eight through twelve, The Chronicles of Narnia is loved by those young, old, and in between.
This high fantasy series follows an array of children as they embark on fate-fuelled adventures to break curses, rescue royalty, and unfold the history of the magical land of Narnia.
Now let’s dive in to the 2 ways to read The Chronicles of Narnia books in order.
The Chronicles of Narnia Books in Order of Publication
Firstly, here is a list of The Chronicles of Narnia books in order of publication. This is the recommended reading order for first-time readers of the series, and we’ll get to why shortly.
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950)
- Prince Caspian (1951)
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)
- The Silver Chair (1953)
- The Horse and His Boy (1954)
- The Magician’s Nephew (1955)
- The Last Battle (1956)
Why Should I Read It in Order of Publication?
While I am not one for arguing within the fandom, I did grow up with The Chronicles of Narnia and have my opinions. So, here are my reasons for reading The Chronicles of Narnia in this order:
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is captivating. It’s the best book to introduce you to the world beyond the wardrobe. It’s a powerful book with powerful characters and has a plot that grabs your attention. It is an entry book that welcomes you to this magical world, delivering the right amount of world-building to situate new readers.
- We also follow familiar characters in this order. The first three books follow the four Pevensie children as they follow their destiny and complete their quests. Reading it in chronological order introduces many new characters and divides the Pevensie’s quests, which can become confusing.
- There is something special about the familiarity and easter eggs. Reading The Magician’s Nephew sixth brings a sense of nostalgia from the first book. With familiar characters returning, we learn the history that began our favourite adventures. The Magician’s Nephew is a prequel that will be loved on a deeper level as we revisit the magical world we’ve already fallen in love with.
The Chronicles of Narnia Books in Chronological Order
But how about The Chronicles of Narnia books in order according to chronology?
Despite the reasons I’ve listed above, some may still wish to read (or reread) The Chronicles of Narnia books in chronological order. To quote C.S. Lewis himself: “perhaps it does not matter very much in which order anyone [reads] them.” To each their own!
- The Magician’s Nephew
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
- The Horse and His Boy
- Prince Caspian
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
- The Silver Chair
- The Last Battle
Why Is the Chronological Order So Popular?
Lewis was once quoted in a letter to an American reader, saying he felt that chronologically was the easiest way to read his series. Here is his full reply when asked about the proper reading order:
“I think I agree with your [chronological] order for reading the books more than your mother’s. The series was not planned beforehand as she thinks. When I wrote The Lion I did not know I was going to write any more. Then I wrote P. Caspian as a sequel and still didn’t think there would be any more, and when I had done The Voyage I felt quite sure it would be the last, but I found I was wrong. So perhaps it does not matter very much in which order anyone read them. I’m not even sure that all the others were written in the same order in which they were published.”C.S. Lewis, Wikipedia
Regarding this letter, the UK and European editions numbered the books chronologically. For a while, the US and Canadian editions numbered the books in order of publication, but that has since changed.
Today, no matter where you buy the Chronicles, the books are most often numbered chronologically. This includes the boxed set.
Can You Skip The Horse and His Boy?
Of all the books in the series, The Horse and His Boy is by far the most different. This installment features new main characters and isn’t directly intertwined like the previous books. In fact, the events in The Horse and His Boy happen parallel to the other books.
The setting also feels startlingly different upon first read, which works to set it apart from the other books. That’s because it takes place in Narnia’s neighbouring country of Calormen.
It should be noted that Lewis modeled Calormen after Persian and Ottoman Turkish empires, which brings with it some out-dated and cringe-worthy racial stereotypes. However, through setting this book through the eyes of neighbouring countrymen, and women, Lewis offers a new perspective to Narnia. Regardless of whether you choose to read the books in chronological or publication order, Narnia will be familiar and comforting by the time you reach The Horse and His Boy, and this new perspective is refreshing.
Even though, and perhaps because, the book does not take place in Narnia, it provides world-building that we do not see in the other books. Reading this novel will provide more context for the Calormenes before the events that take place in The Last Battle.
As mentioned, The Horse and His Boy takes place parallel and not in lieu of the timelines in the other books. It actually takes place during the reign of Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. This allows the book to reveal some delightful Easter eggs for other books during the series as well.
All of that said, if you’re really not enjoying this installment, you can skip it without significantly impacting your reading of the rest of the series. However, if you’re looking to enjoy the series completely, you shouldn’t skip it.
The Chronicles of Narnia in Order (Movies)
Here is a list of all The Chronicles of Narnia film adaptations in order of release (and, technically, chronologically too).
- The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
- The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008)
- The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)
In total, these three films grossed more than $1.5 billion worldwide; although, the monetary success dipped slightly with each successive film.
The films star William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes, and Georgie Henley as the Pevensie siblings Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy respectively. The franchise also stars Will Poulter, Ben Barnes, Tilda Swinton, and Liam Neeson as the voice of Aslan.
Will There Be Future Films?
It’s been over a decade since the release of the last Chronicles of Narnia film. There was hope that the fourth movie, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair, would be next. Unfortunately, this dream seems to have crumbled before our eyes, as in 2018, Netflix bought the rights to the series.
There have been rumours of a Netflix TV series and whisperings of more movies, but Netflix has yet to announce anything official. As well, a recast will likely be necessary with the original cast having aged out of their roles since the first film was released in 2005. As such, most fans consider a new Chronicles film unlikely for now.
The Chronicles of Narnia Books
1. The Magician’s Nephew
Narnia…where the woods are thick and cold, Talking Beasts are called to life, and adventure begins.
Digory and Polly meet and become friends one cold, wet summer in London. Their lives burst into adventure when Digory’s Uncle Andrew, who thinks he’s a magician, sends them hurtling to…somewhere else. They find their way to Narnia, newborn from the Lion’s song, and encounter the evil sorceress, Jadis, before they finally return home.
2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Narnia…the land beyond the wardrobe door, a secret place frozen in eternal winter, a magical country waiting to be set free.
Lucy is the first to find the secret of the wardrobe in the professor’s mysterious old house. At first, her brothers and sister don’t believe her when she tells of her visit to the land of Narnia. But soon, Edmund, then Peter and Susan, step through the wardrobe themselves.
In Narnia, they find a country buried under the evil enchantment of the White Witch. When they meet the lion, Aslan, they realize they are part of a great adventure and bravely join the battle to free Narnia from the Witch’s sinister spell.
3. The Horse and His Boy
The Horse and His Boy is a stirring and dramatic fantasy story that finds a young boy named Shasta on the run from his homeland with the talking horse, Bree. When the pair discover a deadly plot by the Calormen, people wishing to conquer the land of Narnia, the race is on to warn the inhabitants of the impending danger and to rescue them all from certain death.
4. Prince Caspian
Narnia…the land between the lamp-post and the castle of Cair Paravel, where animals talk, magical things happen, and adventure begins.
Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are returning to boarding school when they are summoned from the dreary train station (by Susan’s own magic horn) to return to the land of Narnia — the land where they had ruled as kings and queens, and where their help is desperately needed once again.
5. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Dawn Treader will take you places you never dreamed existed. Narnia…the world of wicked dragons and magic spells. Where the very best is brought out of even the worst people, where anything can happen and adventure begins.
The Dawn Treader is the first ship Narnia has seen in centuries. King Caspian has built it for his voyage to find the seven lords, good men whom his evil uncle, Miraz, banished when he usurped the throne. The journey takes Edmund, Lucy, and their cousin Eustace, to the Eastern Islands, beyond the Silver Sea, toward Aslan’s country and the End of the World.
6. The Silver Chair
Narnia…where owls are wise and some of the giants like to snack on humans. Where a prince is put under an evil spell and where adventure begins.
Eustace and Jill escape from the bullies at school through a strange door in the wall, which, for once, is open. It leads to the open moor…or does it? Once again, Aslan has a task for the children and Narnia needs them. Through dangers untold and caverns deep and dark, they pursue the quest that brings them face to face with the evil Witch. She must be defeated if Prince Rillian is to be saved.
7. The Last Battle
During the last days of Narnia, the land faces its fiercest challenge — not an invader from without, but an enemy from within. Lies and treachery have taken root, and only the king and a small band of loyal followers can prevent the destruction of all they hold dear.
A false Aslan is roaming Narnia, commanding everyone to work for the cruel Calormenes. Can Eustace and Jill find the true Aslan and restore peace to the land? The last battle is the greatest of all and the final struggle between good and evil.
Looking for more books in order?
Check out my list of The Dresden Files Books in Order.