The Silver Chair is the penultimate book in the Chronicles of Narnia series by C S Lewis. It is marginally my favourite of the whole series, just ahead of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
As with most Narnia novels, The Silver Chair involves some children being plucked out of our world and into the realm of Narnia, similar to our own world but with the addition of talking beasts and certain mythological figures (Dryads, Fauns, Centaurs, etc). Narnia is ruled by a King acting on behalf of Aslan, the Great Lion who is also the creator of Narnia. He is always interested in the events of Narnia but does not always directly intervene - and sometimes he chooses children from our world (always referred to as "Son of Adam" and "Daughter of Eve") to accomplish his will. The children, in this case, are Eustace (who was a horrible child until he was taught a few lessons in Voyage of the Dawn Treader and Jill, who is new to the series.
Eustace Scrubb ("unfortunate name - but he was not a bad sort") and Jill Pole go to the same school - called, appropriately and forebodingly, "Experiment House". Unfortunately this school was a breeding ground for bullies. Jill and Eustace were among the bullied rather than the bullies.
The story starts with Jill crying behind the gym because she has been bullied again. Eustace chances upon her and tries to comfort her, though his efforts are largely taken the wrong way. Lewis writes the personalities of the children authentically, right down to the way they use each others' surnames as a means of address, to Eustace and his observations about girls, to basic child psychology He is cajoled into talking about his trip to Narnia (everyone had noticed how he had changed since), and presently they try to get there by calling out the name of Aslan. But nothing happens immediately and the bullies are after them; they are cornered...you can guess what happens next.
Without giving away too much more of the story, Jill and Eustace end up in Narnia. In a scene bearing remarkable parallels to Moses receiving the Law on Mount Sinai, Jill is given four signs to look out for and follow to accomplish their quest in Nania. Aslan tells her that she must continually repeat these signs in order not to forget them. But of course as things happen she does forget, and often by the time she remembers it seems too late...
The plot is very enjoyable though I found aspects of it rather predictable - not that this was really a problem since it was the sort of predictable that made you break out in a broad grin when your suspicions were proved right. There is lots going on and loads of symbolism packed into the beginning and end of the book, some taken direct from the Bible, some from the teachings in mainstream Christianity that are more Greek philosophy than scriptural interpretation.
A passage explaining how all the true kings of Narnia had the royal bloodline and ruled in the manner of the first High King, Peter, made me wonder if Lewis was alluding to the Catholic view Apostolic Succession. (This was a minor point but one that made me stop and try to work out its meaning for a minute.) There was also a minor dig at "progressive" thinking. Of course children would not really pick up on that sort of thing, but little details like that make it a much more enjoyable book for adults to read. What is in the middle of the book (and makes up the vast majority of it) is simply what one might call a "ripping yarn" - high adventure of the best kind. Lewis still occasionally talks directly to the reader, but this is done infrequently and does not feel out of place as it occasionally does in the Narnia series.
The writing style is as witty and full of a zest as any of the other best works of C S Lewis. Though it is primarily a book for children, reading it as an adult (some would dispute that but I can prove it, I have a copy of my birth certificate!) I found it a tremendously enjoyable read. The best thing about this particuar book is the characters - they are truly wonderful, zany creatures that have a personality that lives through the pages. The owls, for instance, end practically every sentence with a word that rhymes with "twoo". There are many other memorable characters dotted throughout the book, but by far the most entertaining is the one that accompanies Scrubb and Pole throughout almost all of their quest: Puddleglum. He is a Marshwiggle, a most peculiar and pessimistic race. He, however, is considered to be too upbeat and optimistic by the rest of his people. When he comes out with phrases like "Good morning, Guests", he said. "Though when I say good I do not mean it will not probably turn to rain or it might be snow, or fog, or thunder. You did not get any sleep, I dare say." that might seem unlikely. But he does in the end turn into a more optimistic chap... sort of! (Of course he turned out be a true hero in the end - not that he would believe it if you said it...)