The Horse and his Boy (by CS Lewis)

A fan for many years of CS Lewis, I've re-read the Narnia series many times over the years.

'The Horse and his Boy' is the third, chronologically speaking, in the Narnia fantasy series. When I was a teenager, I didn't really like this book, however, and often left it out when re-reading Narnia books. It doesn't begin (as most of the others do) in our world and while the four Pevensie children are now kings and queens of Narnia, and do come into the book, they're fairly minor characters. It's entirely possible to read the others without this one, which doesn't quite 'fit' - and so it's a good many years since I last read it.

The story is about a boy called Shasta, who escapes from his home when he realises that his father plans to sell him to a visiting merchant. He meets a talking Narnian horse who also wants to escape, and return to his homeland; they meet two more escapees along the way.

There's lots of excitement with lions, a long desert walk, plots against various people, and more, making it a difficult book to put down even though I remembered - basically- what happened. I'd also forgotten entirely how Lewis's wonderful writing make this an excellent story.

I suppose that, more than any of the others, 'The Horse and his boy' would be good to read as a one-off since it's not at all necessary to have read any of the others. Then again, mention is made of the story and some of the people in 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe', so it might be a good idea to read that one beforehand.

Although the book takes place in another world, with talking animals, and - later on - a few fauns, centaurs and so on, the fantasy element is low key; it can be read simply as an adventure story. Naturally, given the author, there are several Christian allusions, but they're low-key enough to be ignored or unnoticed by those who are not interested in Christian things.

Suitable for children of any age - originally intended for those of between about eight and twelve, but it's an excellent 'crossover' book that appeals to teenagers and adults too. It could be read aloud to a less confident younger reader, although a very sensitive child might find it a bit scary in places.

Definitely recommended. Written in 1954, and continually in print, published in many different editions around the world.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 28th November 2010

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