By C.S. Lewis
Shasta has lived all his life as a Calormene, though he does not look like anyone else who lives in the area. Upon hearing that he might be sold as a slave to another man, he asks the man’s horse whether the man would be a good master. To his surprise, the Horse answers. The Horse is one of the Talking Beasts, originally from Narnia, and hopeful to return to his homeland. Together, they form a plan to travel across the great city of Tashbaan, then the vast desert into the free countries of the North, including Narnia. They set out in the dark of night, hoping to travel undiscovered. Before they even reach the city, though, they stumble upon another pair of travelers. Calormene princess Aravis and the Horse, Hwin, are also headed north for Narnia and the free lands. Once they enter the city, however, they are separated by circumstance. Shasta overhears plans for escape, and Aravis overhears plans for attack. When they reunite and share this new knowledge, their travels North now include a desperate attempt to head off disaster by warning others of impending battle.
“The Horse and His Boy” by C.S. Lewis is the third book in the Narnia series, though it was published fourth. Although the Talking Beasts of Narnia have been a feature in every book so far in the series, they take on a more central role in this book. Lewis creates a wonderful world built from a fantasy for many children in which children talk to animals, animals respond, and the animals also take on the role of guide and mentor in addition to steadfast companion. Combined with the travels, shenanigans, and general escapades, this story easily fulfills the dreams of young readers and taps into the nostalgia of older audiences. “The Horse and His Boy” broadens the world of Narnia, both geographically and in content. The four main characters in the Narnia series (Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy), have much smaller roles in this book, and Lewis develops their story and reputation from the perspective of the central characters of Shasta and Aravis. Lewis also expands the realm of Narnia by sharing the history and culture of the surrounding countries. Despite their peripheral position, Narnia and the kings and queens of Narnia continues to grow through these stories and in the imagination of its readers.
This is a fun book, and I enjoyed reading a story that continues to build the world of Narnia through other characters and storylines. I particularly enjoyed the close relationships with the Talking Beasts and that they were given autonomy and independence as characters, which helps illustrate some of the moral lessons in ways that can’t quite be comparably be done with only human relationships. Part of the young adult aspect of the novel, I suppose. Fast-paced, fun, and easy to move through, this book is good to pick up and put down when you have a few minutes to spend reading.