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Shasta is a young boy living in Calormene with a cruel man who claims to be his father. One night he overhears his "father" offering to sell him as a slave, so Shasta makes a break and sets out for the North. He meets Bree, a talking horse who becomes his companion. On their way they encounter Aravis, a high-born girl escaping an arranged marriage, and her talking horse. Despite their differences the children and horses learn to work together to reach the freedom they long for. In the meantime, they uncover a Calormene plot to conquer Narnia. (from Goodreads)
The Horse and His Boy is probably the most problematic books in the Narnia series, mainly because of the racism. But! It’s also one of my favorites, and that’s because of the characters.
I love that Aravis is so different from most of the other Narnian heroines. She reminds me a bit of older!Lucy– she’s tough and capable and isn’t namby-pamby like Susan. However, unlike Lucy, Aravis is a total brat. She’s the most flawed (non-evil) female character I’ve seen yet in the Narnia series, which weirdly just made me like her more. I mean, yes, she’s annoying because she refuses to be polite to Shasta and I don’t like rude kids. But she’s so different that I couldn’t help but appreciate her being in the story.
Likewise, Shasta is a great hero. I loved that his story was more than just “defeat the bad thing.” He really had to work to see the hero inside himself, even when he was doing actual heroic things. Character development! Huzzah!
The other characters were great, too: I loved seeing the older Pevensies again, especially because older!Edmund is an actual good king (which almost entirely makes up for having to deal with him in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe). It was nice seeing the Pevensies be the competant adults; maybe because you don’t often see kid heroes STAY heroes once they turn into adults?1 Usually their stories end once they grow up. Anyway, I liked it.
The story is great, too! It’s a kind of road trip story, with character development happening at the same rate as the journey. Yes, I totally figured out the “twist” before everyone else in the book, but I don’t think it was meant to have been that secret, was it? I remember the narration basically EXPLAINING everything right as that whole subplot started, anyway, soooo.
Okay, so: yes, there’s racist stuff2 and that’s disappointing. And there’s some sexist stuff, and Susan is a big drip, and I suppose the main story isn’t all that new or different from many “young boy becomes hero” plots. Nevertheless! I enjoyed reading The Horse and His Boy and it’s now one of my favorite Narnian books. So there.
Read: June 9, 2013
The ending killed me: they all got married, even the horses (but not to each other). WHAT is with C.S. Lewis’ thing with women having lots of offspring who do great things, btw? It’s like, even if the lady herself is amazing, it doesn’t matter because she had all this kids who grew up to be heroes, too, and THAT’S what’s important. He does it in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, too, and it’s REALLY ANNOYING.