This valuable companion volume to C.S. Lewis's Narnia series draws upon several of Downing's previous books on Lewis, including The Most Reluctant Convert and Into the Region of Awe, adding new material. After an excellent biographical essay that takes seriously Lewis's intellectual as well as personal history, Downing offers an equally helpful and detailed chapter on the genesis of Narnia, with book-by-book descriptions of how the stories came into being. Here we learn about the origins of various characters (some of whom mirrored people Lewis knew in his own life, such as a dreaded headmaster) and about unpublished versions of the stories, including the famous ""Lefay fragment"" that offers an alternate beginning to ""The Magician's Nephew."" Downing also speculates about some of the literary influences that can be seen in Lewis's Chronicles, from The Voyage of Saint Brendan and Arabian Nights to the myth of Orpheus and the biblical book of Revelation. In subsequent chapters, Downing elaborates on the series' spiritual vision and moral center (including an intriguing section on Edmund's descent into selfishness and sin). But the most original and arresting chapters are the ones on the significance of names and the medieval and Renaissance literary allusions that crop up throughout the Chronicles. These literary feasts will be best enjoyed by fans who have read the entire series, but those who haven't may be so impressed by Downing's exploration of Lewis's deep and sophisticated imagination that they will sneak ""into the wardrobe"" and devour the Chronicles for themselves.