Number of pages: 240
The one thing I feel bad about is dismissing this book as a child, as reading it again I've realised this is quite good.
This Narnia book stands out from the others in that it does not feature characters from our world being whisked into the universe of Narnia. Here, the main character Shasta lives in the fictional Calormen, one of the lands that lies close to Narnia.
At the start, Shasta escapes from his cruel father by stealing a visitor's horse, who turns out to be a talking horse from Narnia. On their journey to Narnia they meet another traveller, a girl called Aravis (and her horse Hwin); they also discover a plot to invade Narnia.
Aslan appears as usual, at first appearing frightening, as Shasta thinks he is being attacked, but later on Aslan gives a great speech about the number of forms he has appeared in (at one point he appears as a cat), and how he has had an influence throughout Shasta's life, protecting him. The whole idea is that Shasta has to pay attention to Aslan, and my understanding (from reading "The Narnia Code") is that this book is all about listening out for God. The book also has a few references to remaining vigilant and not falling asleep, which put me in mind of many church sermons I've heard.
Shasta also discovers that another character, Prince Corin, is his exact double. This leads to a plot twist at the end that I could see coming a mile off, but which did not detract from the book's quality. As this book's hero himself says, "I might really have guessed it".
Overall, I enjoyed how simplistic this book was, with a straightforward adventure story, with a climactic battle similar to some of the other Narnia titles. I remember one moment that seemed unusually gruesome for a book that a reading age that seems to be even younger than Harry Potter; at one point, Aravis tells of how she almost committed suicide before being talked out of it by Hwin (this is possibly the darkest moment in the whole Narnia series).
This book was the fifth written (the story is alluded to in the book written just before this, "The Silver Chair"), but falls third in the series. This might seem odd, as at first it appears to only loosely connect to the other books through the presence of Aslan and Narnia. There is a good explanation for this, but it will give spoilers for "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe".
[The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Spoilers]
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe tells of how Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter, with Aslan's help, defeat the White Witch, who has turned Narnia into eternal winter, with no Christmas. At the end of the book, the four children are crowned as kings and queens and grow up to reach adulthood, before they stumble out of the wardrobe and (presumably through Aslan's magic) are turned into children again, while only a few moments passed in their own world.
This story noticeably takes place between the coronation and when they finally left Narnia; Lucy, Edmund and Susan (all adults in this book) appear as Kings and Queens of Narnia (their roles are vastly bigger than I had remembered). High King Peter is also mentioned as being away on some sort of business, and does not appear in person.
I also liked the fact that the White Witch was also mentioned; one character is mentioned as believing that she is still reigning in Narnia.
Re-reading has made me feel that this is one of the better Narnia titles, despite my previous feelings.
Next book: Shirley (Charlotte Brontë)