I first found this book in the library at my school when I was twelve or so, and started reading it – however, I put the book back after about six chapters because I was bored. Remembering this, it was with some trepidation that I picked up The Horse and His Boy for a second try.
The story takes place mainly in Calormen (aka Land of Scary Brown People) rather than Narnia. Our hero is Shasta, an orphan boy who runs away from home with Bree, a talking horse. They set out for Narnia, and on the way are joined by tomboy Aravis (who is running away from an arranged marriage) and her talking horse. They try to get to Narnia without attracting attention, but they end up learning about a plot by the Calormenes to invade Narnia and get sucked into the conflict.
Okay, it’s not that bad. Yes, the whole story has an unpleasantly racist aftertaste (Lewis doesn’t go quite so far as to call the Calormenes filthy dark Muslims, but the implication is clear), but it was a nice story. I liked the characters, mostly because they actually had flaws and were a nice break from the aren’t-we-perfect Pevensie kids. Naturally those clean-cut paragons of British goodness make an appearance later on (the story takes place during their reign in Narnia), but they stay mostly on the sidelines.
I really didn’t think this one was going to have Aslan in it. He shows up about 3/4 of the way through to provide guidance, but I almost wished that he hadn’t. It seemed like Lewis was working really hard to put his characters into situations where divine help was actually needed, but I thought that everyone in the story probably could have managed by themselves.
Verdict: three out of five stars