The Horse and His Boy (Chronicles of Narnia, #3) - C.S. Lewis, Pauline Baynes “No one is told any story but their own”

Shasta lives on the shores of Calormene with a fisherman whom he believes is his father. One day, a traveler stops by and offers to buy Shasta from the fisherman. Shasta then meets up with Bree, the traveler’s Narnia horse (who talks) and both leave for Narnia. Along the way, they meet Aravis, a Calormene girl who was betrothed against her will to a much older vizer, and Hwin, a female Narnia horse.

I Liked:
What a truly enjoyable story! As I’ve mentioned before, it has some of my criteria for a perfect book:
Good Characters: Shasta is a great character, uninitiated yet adventurous; untrained yet willing to learn. Aravis is much better; she is a smart, strong-willed character, who leaves her father’s house because of an arranged marriage. Bree and Hwin are also well done and really felt like horses, not just humans in a horse costume.
An adventure: Shasta’s journey to Narnia is very intense and exciting. From Tashbaan to the desert to the hermit’s hut, every step was interesting, well portrayed and intense. I was particularly fond of Aravis meeting up with a friend from her youth and escaping the palace.
A battle: The end battle was great, a good climax for the story. Even though it was kinda hokey how the hermit narrated it, I did think he infused quite a bit of well deserved humor, particularly about Shasta’s fighting style.
An understated romance: I won’t detail too much, but the ending has a line about the romance that still has me in stitches!
This book, in my opinion, is much better than “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” for several reasons. The Christian allegory isn’t so hammered awkwardly for one. Aslan does appear, but his appearance is far more personal and thus more interesting. I also liked how the characters actually did something. Shasta has a very important role, one that doesn’t resolve to simply being in Narnia and setting off a chain reaction. Shasta must grow from a simple fisherman’s boy to a brave warrior. I find personal stories such as this more interesting than a larger scale story (the salvation of Narnia, a land which many readers had only just stumbled upon themselves and have little knowledge or attachment to).

I Didn’t Like:
I didn’t like Queen Susan’s portrayal. She comes off as a boy crazy teenaged girl, quick to fall in love with a bad man but when it comes time to get out of the situation, she is completely unable to function and resorts to over-dramatizing. Not to mention, I was surprised that she didn’t go to war, and yet had super archery skills. Also, I found it odd that Queen Lucy was the one going to war (and suddenly getting mad archery skillz), and Queen Susan stays at Cair Paravel.
Some people might not like the books as they do portray the Arabian-inspired Calormenes as evil slave traders. I didn’t see that (Aravis is Calormene and she is a good guy), but it is of note.
There are a few odd coincidences pertaining to Shasta’s life.

Dialogue/Sexual Situations/Violence:
Aravis is betrothed to a much older man. She also dresses like a slave girl in order to escape. Rabadash is smitten with lust for Queen Susan and plans to sneak into Narnia to capture her.
There are a few battles in here, along with a few encounters with a lion.

I was surprised at how good this was. I read (actually listened) to this book probably 10 years ago and remembered almost nothing. I loved the journey adventure and how the book has a really good, strong female character. The biggest dislike I had was how Susan was portrayed. If I could, I would rate 4.5 stars, but for now, I will settle on 4 stars and depending how the other books turn out, I may bump up the rating to 5. Definitely recommended.