Monday, March 25, 2013

Book Review: The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis (Chronicles of Narnia #5)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters and plot
Cons: A different feel could leave some feeling cold
The Bottom Line:
I like this book now
Didn't get it as a kid
Give it second chance

"To Narnia and the North!"

The Horse and His Boy is the first time the chronology of Narnia really becomes an issue. It was written fifth, and was advertised as such for years. However, it takes place third, or really during the years covered by a few paragraphs of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and includes come of the characters introduced in that book. Frankly, it doesn't matter in which order you read it. Very little of the events of other books are discussed. And while it will be helpful to know these previously introduced characters, you could get by with the explanation we are given here since they are such a small part of the book.

Shasta is about to be sold into slavery when he meets Bree, a talking horse from Narnia. Together, the two decide to escape their horrible masters and set out for the north. The journey is hard since they must hide from anyone pursuing them. Plus Shasta has never ridden a horse before. And that's before lions show up and begin to chase them.

The lions turn out to be helpful because it allows them to meet up with Aravis and her horse Hwin who are also fleeing north to the freedom offered by Narnia.

The biggest obstacle the four face is getting through the great city of Tashbaan undetected. Their plans go wrong and Shasta finds himself in the company of Queen Susan and King Edmund of Narnia. But it's Aravis that learns of a secret plot to invade Narnia. Can the four get there in time to warn the inhabitants?

This is a funny book in the series. Unlike the other six, there is no magical passage between our world and the magical world of Narnia. As a kid, this difference really bothered me, and I didn't like it. As a result, I didn't remember that much about it when I went to reread it as an adult.

That's when I discovered just how good this book is. The plot is very strong and kept me engaged the entire way through. I found myself reading "One more chapter" to find out what would happen next.

Equally engaging were the characters. All four of our main characters are very real and sympathetic. Their flaws make them even more endearing, and provide the main teaching moments in this book. Aslan the Lion makes several memorable appearances, and I found them even more moving then normal. I am still disappointed that the characters we love from previous books are basically reduced to cameos. I would have loved to see more of them.

This isn't your typical book in the series. But if you start The Horse and His Boy aware of this, you're sure to find plenty to enjoy.

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