Too often it seems that a talented novelist writes a great many wonderful novels, only to be recognized for one or two of his pieces. Such is the case with C.S. Lewis, best, and oftentimes only, known as the writer of “The Chronicles of Narnia” series. Lewis’s work before and his most famous series included numerous novels and novellas, almost all of which have gained great critical acclaim, even as they sit unnoticed by the public.
Written in 1956, Till We Have Faces was Lewis’ last book, and arguably his most poignant, and is strongly recommended to anyone with a love for Greek or Roman mythology, or an interest in darker fairy tales.
The book is retelling of the famous myth of Cupid and Psyche, as told by Psyche’s older sister, Orual. Though painted in the original myth as a vindictive and jealous person (oftentimes thought of as the original “evil stepsister”) in this novel, Orual becomes the tragic center of the story. Full of both darkness and beauty, the novel reads like a twisted fairy tale, as Princess Orual and her sister grapple against the power and will of the gods. Beneath the story of curses, invisible palaces, ghosts and princesses, however, lies a deep exploration of faith, as Orual begins writing her story as an accusation against the gods.
Overall, the novel was beautifully written, and amazingly constructed to feel fast-paced but not overwhelming. Like a waterfall, it is a wonderful balance of beauty and power. By the end, any reader is bound to fall in love with the flawed, but wise voice of Orual and be overcome by her story. Its dark themes and powerful characters make this novel a nine of ten. The only downfall comes in that to properly appreciate the story, one must know at least a little of the original myth. You need not be an expert on the myth, however, and a simple reading of the “Cupid and Psyche” Wikipedia article would suffice to make sure you get the most out of what I truly believe may be one of the most exceptional stories you read.