This was always my least favorite book in this series. So far at least, it remains that way, but I think for different reasons. I’m not quite sure why I never really warmed to it when I was a kid. I’d like to think that my subconscious was responding to what my conscious mind is cringing at now, but I also think that a large part of it might be that this isn’t really a portal fantasy, like the rest of the books are (The Last Battle also sort of isn’t, and I don’t really like that one all that much either). The entire book takes place in Narnia and the surrounding countries, there is no traveling back and forth between worlds, which is a big part of the appeal.
The basic bones of this story are sound. Lost orphan boy, magical talking horse, an adventure and a journey, and a found identity. A rousing battle and lessons learned about what makes a person worthy. It’s just, ugh, Lewis really paints the Calormenes in a negative light, and it does mostly point to them as a race and not to them in a way that isn’t problematic. The only good Calormen we meet is Aravis and she ends up abandoning her country forever. The illustrations are pretty racist, also.
I didn’t remember at all how involved Aslan was in this book, but he’s pretty omnipresent. That’s him on the cover in disguise as a cat! I also liked that Bree the horse had his own little character arc. I did think that was a nice touch.
I don’t really have much beyond any of that to say. Glad I’ve got this one under my belt, probably won’t be revisiting it any time soon.