The Horse and His Boy is a wonderful, often surprising, and always engaging adventure. It is more “grown up” in many respects than the other books in the Chronicles of Narnia, concerned as it is with cultures and rulers, court intrigue and wars. But the central characters, Shasta, Aravis, Bree, and Hwin give it a levity and a fanciful feel that keep the wonder of Narnia always near as the reader turns the page.
The most Narnian story of all
This novel is unique among the Chronicles of Narnia. It is the only story whose main characters are principally Narnian born. The story begins and ends in “Narnia” without reference to our world. But it doesn’t even really begin in Narnia at all. It begins in the strange exotic land of Calormen where Shasta unexpectedly finds a Narnian talking horse named Bree (his real name is too hard for Shasta to pronounce). This awakens in him the longing to journey to the northern lands, a place he has been dreaming of all his life.
This longing is fundamental to the story and it echoes the reader’s own. While Calormen certainly has fascinating things to see and experience, it is Narnia we are longing for, along with Shasta. That longing keeps the story moving and stirs our hearts for something beyond the flowery ceremony and rigid formalism of Calormen.
Expect the unexpected
The villains in this book are not terribly imposing. No White Witch or Lady of the Green Kertle here. But Aslan, as always, has all the best lines and the best scenes. In particular, his heart to heart talks with Shasta and Aravis are profoundly moving, showing how he has been providentially working for their good even when terribly things seemed to have been happening.
In the end, this is just a pure delight, a pure adventure, with marvelous characters, imaginative settings, and an intriguing plot, with a surprising amount of turns for a Narnia book. Like its main character, it hides a surprising amount of depth and we find, as Aravis does with Shasta, that the story turns out to be “the best of us all.”