Bonita Jewel’s Review:
I was seven or eight years old when my older brother told me the name of a horse: Breehy-hinny-brinny-hoohy-hah. I thought it was hilarious and I had to meet the horse. The horse in The Horse and His Boy. Bree is a talking horse of Narnia who had been enslaved as a colt and grown up in a nation south of Narnia: Calormen.
Shasta is another name I found funny. I knew it as a brand of soda. But in The Horse and His Boy, Shasta is the boy. Shasta also lives in Calormen. The humble and hard life of a fisherman’s son is all he has ever known, but something stirs inside him every time he thinks of what lies to the North.
One night, Shasta and Bree meet, and they determine to make their way to Narnia and the North. The two make a few surprising acquaintances on their way and join up with another set of runaways, yet their journey is also beset by danger. One particular peril is the most feared by both Shasta and Bree: lions.
But they just might discover the lions that bar their way and complicate their journey are very different from what they feared. They might find every twist to their quest, every seeming wrong turn, is for a reason.
Recommended age: Six and up. This series welcomes discussion with children about purpose in problems and difficulty, humility, and courage.
Re-readable: Yes, even if only to reacquaint oneself, time and again, with the Lion.
Jessica Rose’s Review:
The Horse and His Boy takes place in the Golden Age of High King Peter, Queen Susan, King Edmund, and Queen Lucy’s rule. King Peter is away fighting giants, Susan and Edmund are in Tashbaan, and Lucy remains in the Narnian castle, Cair Paravel.
Shasta is a young boy living in Calormen. His father, Arsheesh, is a fisherman with dark skin like everyone else except for Shasta. Shasta often longs to know what lies North of his home; however, when he asks Arsheesh, he never gets the answer he wants. If Arsheesh is having a good day, he might tell Shasta to mind his own business, which is to do everything that needs to be done around the house including mending and washing the nets, cleaning the cottage that they live in, and cooking supper, or he might box Shasta’s ears. Shasta’s life is pretty uneventful until one day when a stranger comes to their house.
The stranger is a Tarkaan – a nobleman with a magnificent war horse. The Tarkaan goes inside to talk with Arsheesh, and Shasta is sent outside with a hunk of dry bread to sleep in the stable. While Shasta listens to their conversation, he finds out two startling things. One, he is about to be sold as a slave to the Tarkaan. Two, Arsheesh is not really his father. Shasta wonders out loud whether or not his new master will be kind to him. Surprisingly he gets an answer, even more surprisingly the answer comes from the horse. The Tarkaan’s war horse is a Narnian horse from the Northern land where animals speak. The horse, whose name is Breehy-hinny-brinny-hoohy-hah advises Shasta to come with him so that they can both escape.
On the way, they meet two other unexpected travelers, Aravis and Hwin, while being chased by lions and together they will make their way to Narnia. First, however, they must pass through the great Calormene capital, Tashbaan. Almost as soon as they enter the great city, they are separated. Shasta is mistaken for an Archenland prince (a land near Narnia) and finds himself in the middle of a group of Narnian royalty trying to escape Tashbaan. Aravis meets a friend and while she tries to leave Tashbaan, overhears a top secret conversation. The Prince Rabadash and 200 horsemen are going to attack Archenland without mercy.
They both must escape with help from their two Narnian steeds. They have a new mission. They must warn the King Lune of Archenland and save that country before Rabadash arrives. It is a race with surprising twists and turns as Shasta discovers his past, Bree becomes a wiser horse, Aravis faces her punishment, and the four companions hurry to Narnia and the North.
Recommended age: 7 and up