C.S. Lewis weaves a vivid and strong story in the Chronicle of Narnia that spends the least amount of time in the actual land of Narnia (that is, besides The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where no time is spent in Narnia at all!).
Take the separated twins of The Prince and the Pauper, add a pint of swashbuckling action, tender drama and some hilarious Narnian magic and you have The Horse and His Boy, served in hardcover.
Alright, and paperback!
The Horse and His Boy might be a lesser known Chronicle, but it is not lacking in quality. A young escapee Shasta meets up with two Talking Horses of Narnia, and a new friend from the southern desert land of Calormen. They aim for Narnia and the North, where hope and freedom are guaranteed. Narnia is a land where Talking Beasts live their lives in freedom and joy. But Bree and Hwin have been slaves their whole lives. What culture shock awaits them on their return to their land of origin? Setting their sights before them, they ride purposefully to the North, but their pace becomes desperate when they discover a top-secret plot to attack the nations of the North – including Narnia herself!
In my reading of this novel I was often enthralled by vivid visual descriptions – particularly of the sparkling city of Tashbaan, with its ornate Arabian-inspired architecture and riverside gardens. And I loved the cameos of Queen Lucy, King Edmund, Queen Susan and the Lion Aslan, who we all grew to love while reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Anytime the characters met another creature during this tale, the meaning is priceless (don’t know what I mean? Get the book here.) And when they meet the Great Lion, his beauty, wildness and light enchants me and encourages me.
A really cool thing about this book is the brief mention of other Narnian stories. We read of a daring boxing match with a wild Talking Bear, a two-headed goliath and his dastardly fate, and of the High King Peter defeating the Northern Giants. It makes me feel like I’ve read a dozen tales, not just one.
Today I read the final three chapters of The Horse and His Boy, and I was laughing out loud, feeling pangs of longing and of joy. And on its completion, I feel like Shasta and Aravis are soon to be my friends – someone I have heard so much about, and hope to meet one day soon.
To Narnia and the North!