Children’s Book Blog: Recommended read – The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
What’s the story?
Shasta has grown up as a slave in Calormen, a land East of Narnia ruled by the despotic Tisroc (a sort of Pharaoh-like monarch). When Shasta learns that his master is going to sell him to a cruel warrior nobleman, the boy retreats to the stables and laments his fate to the nobleman’s horse – who turns out to be a Narnian talking horse called Bree.
Together, Shasta and Bree flee towards Narnia, and are soon joined by Aravis, a Calormene princess on the run from an arranged marriage, and her horse Hwin. In the Calormene capital of Tashbaan, the four friends stumble on a plot to bring down the neighbouring country of Archenland and, subsequently, Narnia.
Can they warn the Narnians before the Tisroc’s hot-headed son and his army are at their gates? And who is the cheeky Archenlandian prince who bears an uncanny resemblance to Shasta?
Who’s it for?
Eight to 12-year-olds.
Why should I read it?
First thing’s first – there are elements of this book that sound pretty offensive to modern ears. But set aside the imperialist nonsense of yesteryear and you’re left with a really cracking adventure yarn. It’s essentially a ‘road story’ in which four disparate individuals – two of them humans, two of them horses – learn to overcome their differences and save Narnia in the process.
There are some extremely likeable characters – Bree, an ex-war horse, comes across as a Blimpish sergeant major while Aravis is refreshingly feisty for a literary princess. In fact, women do rather well out of this story. They are, on the whole, more courageous and resourceful than many of their male counterparts – apart from the perpetually pathetic Queen Susan, who is just as drippy and prissy as she was when we first met her in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
There are some wonderfully nail-biting episodes peppered throughout the story – the scene in which Aravis has to hide from the blood-thirsty Tisroc behind the very sofa he is sitting on is particularly tense. And there’s budding romance too – it’s more sparky than slushy though, so don’t let that put you off if you’re not romantically inclined.
Aslan gets a bit preachy at times, but his heavy-handed parables are more than made up for by the thrilling battle sequences, exotic locations and colourful characters.
Best character: Bree, for providing many of the book’s more comic moments.
Best lines: Bree, to Shasta, in a moment of paranoia: “It would be dreadful to find, when I get back to Narnia, that I’ve picked up a lot of low, bad habits… Honestly, now. Don’t spare my feelings. Should you think the real, free horses – the talking kind – roll?”
If I like this, what other books might I like?
The Magician’s Nephew – my favourite Narnia book, and where the story officially begins.
Find out more about C.S. Lewis and Narnia at www.cslewis.com and www.narnia.com
Rebecca Davies is a journalist and children’s author and is currently working on a young adult novel set in Hackney. You can read more of her children’s book blogs here
Follow Rebecca on Twitter @TheStoryMonsterTagged in: CS Lewis, Narnia, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter