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Daughter of the Centaurs
by Kate Klimo

First book in the Centauriad series

Set sometime in the not-so-distant future…

Malora loves horses. Even though she is a girl, she hopes to one day become a great huntress and care for the beautiful animals instead of becoming an herbalist like her mother. But before she comes of age, her village is struck by the terrible Leatherwings, great bat-like monsters that kill all the men and then slowly pick off the women. Malora’s mother tells her to flee as far as she can and to never come back, so Malora does – and for several years, she wanders the plains, gathering a herd of horses from strays she finds during her travels. But the horses soon capture the attention of the Centaurs, who race horses on their greatest festival, the annual Founder’s Day. Their pleasure over the horses is nothing compared to their shock at finding Malora – humans are supposed to be extinct! They take her back to their city as the “pet” of Orion, son of their ruler, and Malora begins to learn about both the centaurs and lost human civilizations.

This is a book for a very young audience, something that completely escaped my notice when I requested it through Amazon’s Vine Program. Don’t ask me why, but for some reason I thought this was yet another YA supernatural romance book. (Which made me a little nervous, because centaur-on-human action? Squicky at best, and far more likely to be just disturbing.) But no, it turns out the book is for kids. The language is extremely simple, with lots of description that, at times, gets rather repetitive. The book is also written in present tense, which is a little unusual. At times, the text is so basic that it’s almost distracting; the book is so clearly aiming for the young that it never transcends to become a book that can also appeal to adults ala Harry Potter.

In spite of this, I liked the book. There are some very disturbing implications that I hope will be more fully explored in future volumes. For example, the centaurs revere human culture. They read our books– one of Malora’s new friends adores Jane Austen novels, for example. Their architecture, as described by the author, sounds like a nightmare of imitation Baroque and Rococo ornamentation. At times, they seem ashamed to be centaurs – they wear clothes designed to hide their horse-halves and use heavy perfumes to mask their horsey scent. Why on earth would they be like that? Well, at one point a faun who, like Malora, is the last of his kind lets slip that scientists created many of the ‘hybrid’ creatures like the Leatherwings and the Twani, a race of humanoid cats. So this begs the question – are the centaurs also human creations, and if so who did it? How? Why?

It’s also curious that while the centaurs can read and write, they no longer have printing presses. So while they treasure the precious books they’ve saved for untold eons, they can’t produce new ones. Stranger still, apparently none of them has ever felt compelled to create new fiction. This seems so strange to me. Again, why can’t the centaurs write new stories? They’re certainly creative – Orion is a perfumer while other centaurs create mosaics, compose music, and engage in other artistic vocations. It’s just a weird little detail that kept bugging me as I read.

The book itself is fairly predictable, especially in the second half. Malora is interesting, but a lot of the other characters are so utterly two-dimensional that I can describe them with one or two words. Orion = Prissy Intellectual, Zephele (his sister) = Flighty Blonde, and Neal Featherhoof (what a name!) = The Cool One. But I’m so intrigued by this dystopian future – how does it come about? Why are there centaurs and fauns and talking cats in our world? I’ll definitely read the next book just to learn the answers to these questions.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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