The chronicles of Narnia take a twist in The Horse and His Boy with a shift in focus away from the Pevensie children of London and an expansion for Narnia itself. Reading the chronicles so far, I imagined Narnia as world of itâ€™s own, however, The Horse and His Boy is the first book to show that Narnia is but a country within a greater world as C.S. Lewis grows his universe by setting the book exclusively off world with no magical trips between London and Narnia. This allows him to explore new places and cultures, giving an added depth to the characters who have full, rich and diverse lives of their own.
The period of the piece is also interesting within the context of the series, as it is set during the reign of Kings Peter and Edmund and Queens Susan and Lucy which is described briefly at the end of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. In The Horse and His Boy however, they are older and wiser characters with all the experiences they held before their return through the wardrobe at the very end of previous book.
Though a few other familiar characters play their part, the story is squarely focused on the horse's boy in this tale, an orphan named Shasta, who is raised by his somewhat cruel foster, a Calormene Fisherman named Arsheesh. When he is being offered to a rich Calormene noble at the beginning of the book, Shasta is left with little choice but to flee. Driven by fear, Shasta along with the same noblemen's talking horse, Bree, mutually decide to escape during the night as their masters rest. Led by the Bree's promise that his home Narnia will be a refuge for them both, Shasta agrees to head north. Joined later by Aravis and another talking horse, Hwin, the four set out on a grand adventure which see them joining a cause greater than their own when they learn of a Calormen raid on Archenland.
Borrowing much from Persian culture, the Calormen landscape is rich and their culture very much full of life. We hear of cities, noble houses and religion. Much of their background is told through stories shared by the escapees of how, why and what led them to run from their past lives.
The Horse and His Boy is a true spin-off from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, telling the native story of Shasta and his journey to not only discover new lands but also the truth about his birth. The most epic chapter in the series so far, with rich fantastical landscapes and long journeys through strange lands and overseas.