Books you'd describe as being "a dark Narnia"

A couple of years ago I had an idea for a story, but didn’t get very far with it. The basic premise was that four kids - a boy, his girlfriend, her little brother, and the little brother’s female friend - got sucked into a nightmarish land, and eventually they were able to make peace with it the twelve years they’re there…only to eventually be dumped back into the reality only a year older than when they returned. And in comparison, the nightmarish place they’d been but got to grow up in wasn’t as bad as the issues their return left them with, like the fact that the older two’s son on the other side was now their unborn baby in the real world due to the unsynched time between the two realities.

I didn’t end up getting far because it occured to me a few pages in that the kids in the chronicles of Narnia did the de-aging thing when they returned from their adventures too, though minus teen pregancy. Maybe I’ll get back to that story anyway, who knows.

But there must be authors who haven’t been scared off by the inevitable comparison to Narnia that virtually any story about young people being sucked into another land bring up. So I’m hoping you can recommend some stories with that premise - kids from our mundane reality end up in a place much worse than Narnia - so…recs?


Well, in * Jumanji *, Robin Williams apparently gets sucked into and spends 20+ years in a jungle hellhole. But we never find out anything about the other side except by implication.

I don’t know if it counts, but in the second half of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, a group of twenty-something wizards (the first half details their time in a New England boarding school for wizards; think a kind of grown-up version of Harry Potter) find way to visit a real-life version a beloved childrens book that is a Narnia analogue. And they find out that it is not the magical land of happiness and adventure that they’d expected. Probably not what you’re looking for, the Narnia-analogue is very deliberately intended to be so and there’s no messing about with the protagonists’ ages and such, but it’s the only thing close that I’ve read or even heard of.

Incidentally, I like your idea. I really think that it’s very interesting. The above, for example, was a deliberate re-versioning of both HP and Narnia and I thought it was a decent read. Grossman made the story quite unique, although I for one found the second half of the book rather weak, but that’s neither here nor there. If you wrote your story elfkin477, I’d buy a copy. Just sayin’.

It’s not quite what you’re looking for, etv, but Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy (Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, & The Amber Spyglass) is explicitly an atheist (or perhaps anti-theist) response to The Chrnicles of Narnia. In the third bood, there is a long sequence that clearly aims to rebut Lewis’s thoughts about the nature of death & salvation as seen in the The Last Battle:

The story’s two protagonists, Lyra & Will, journey to the land of the dead, which they correctly perceive as an unnautural dominion of horrors; in Pullman’s cosmos, sentients’ souls are not “meant” to live after death, but rather to be dispersed and become part of the universe again; life after death is only a prison akin to the Greek Tartarus. Some dead theists, however, insist that the people who correctly see this are incorrect, and the theists insist that in time everyone will be disabused of this notion. It’s a parallel to what happens to the Dwarfs at in the stable at the end of LB.

HDM is a good read, particularly the first book. Sadly, it gets preachier as it proceeds, as Pullman grows so invested in winning his argument with a dead man that he forgets to tell his story with the skill shown in the first book.

Does His Dark Materials count? Will is from our world, although the series spans several. Definitely darker than Narnia, with an antithetical message to Lewis’ (Pullman has been very vocal about how much he dislikes Narnia and finds the books downright dangerous and immoral.)
ETA: Skald. Me. Pistols at Dawn.

Why would you warn me? :confused: Do you come from some alternate world in which I wouldn’t cheat in a duel?

More seriously, I find HDM frustrating, if my other post didn’t make it clear. There is so much wasted potential, much of which could have been fulfilled if he hadn’t been so busy digging up Lewis & Tolkien’s corpses so he could piss on them.

Then you, sir, are no gentleman!

I really hated the first book and a half of **His Dark Materials **and put it out of my mind after that, so I don’t recall if I made it as far as someone being from our world. But no, unless the second half of the series is much bleaker than the first, the world in HDM was just different with some bad stuff here and there like severing the kids’ daemons and not as all-around horrible as I’m hoping for.


The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub has its main character flipping back and forth between our world and a darker, parallel world.

The Guardians of the Flame series by Joel Rosenberg isn’t about kids, exactly, but they’re all college students (so not full adults, necessarily, either). They get tricked into a parallel universe by their professor/RPG gamemaster. While not evilshadowdark, it’s considerably darker than Narnia.

A number of stories have been built around the idea that the realm of the Fae is not at all a nice place and anyone unlucky enough to get trapped there would want out again and badly. For example Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men or the movie Labrynth are both about older sisters rescuing their little brothers from becoming changlings (although they spend very little time there). Or DC’s Vertigo line had a series called The Books of Faerie, which starts with the story of how a human girl who entered the land of the Faerie became magically mutated into a quasi-Fae and ended up becoming Queen Titania.

Shame on you. You probably don’t want to risk it, and that’s understandable. Have you listened to the audiobooks, narrated by the author and a full cast? It’s beautiful, captivating, human, out of this world, exciting, and terrifying. If I had only one creative work to take on an island, the audiobook of “His Dark Materials” just might be it.

Never cared to read the actual book, though. There’s no way it can be topped.

There was also the movie Equinox

Neither is anyone who’d turn up with a cannon when the challenge was pistols at dawn! :stuck_out_tongue:

And really preachy in a way that grates on theists. I don’t like either extreme, which is why I dislike most Christian literature too. Besides, the main character is one of the most annoying “good” kids I’ve ever encountered in a book.

Something like the OP’s scenario is a major plot point in the TV series Angel, although it happens off-screen (and it would be a major spoiler to go into much detail).

This was my problem with Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke. The fantasy world and characters were the pits, it’s like the least fun fantasy adventure ever. I haven’t read the other two books in the series, so I don’t know if this gets better.


Are you talking about

Fred’s time in Pylea?

Maybe, but I thought he meant

Connor’s time in Quor-Toth