Shasta has lived all his life with a poor Calormen fisherman who adopted him when he was a baby. His adopted father is cruel, and so when Shasta meets a Talking Horse named Bree, they make plans to run away together to Narnia. Along the way they meet some other runaways, Aravis and Hwin, and together they must sneak through the bustling city of Tashbaan and cross the desert to reach Narnia.
This is one of my favorites of the Narnia adventures, and the spiritual similitudes were very encouraging and instructive, as they always are when I reread it.
I think it is so interesting to have a story set in another country that borders Narnia and Archenland. We get to see a different culture and different traditions. Unfortunately that culture is mostly cruel and immoral. The Calormen people own slaves and they are mostly greedy and selfish. But they value wisdom and beauty and poetry. It’s a very rich and complex culture and the world building is so excellent in this book!
The characters in this book have a very different dynamic than in the first few books of the series. The first books follow the Pevensie siblings who are all very close and affectionate with each other. But Shasta and Aravis dislike each other in the beginning, and they are grumpy and peppery with each other through most of the book. It’s kind of funny to see their different personalities and how they interact, but they both have excellent character development!
There are just so many wonderful Christian themes and parallels in this book! It is amazing to me how deep and how specific the imagery is that represents particular verses from the Bible. Every time I read this book it is like a breath of fresh air and a joyful light.
The story itself is wonderful, with an exciting plot and magical setting. The characters are deep and complex, with lots of character growth. The writing paints a picture with only a few words, and calls up strong emotional responses in the reader. There is just something so enchanting about this story that has appealed to generations of readers!