Jan 25, 2012

Review: Daughter of the Centaurs by Kate Klimo

Book cover for Daughter of the Centaurs by Kate Klimo
Title: Daughter of the Centaurs [Amazon|GoodReads]
Author: Kate Klimo [Website|Twitter|Facebook]
Standing: First in the new Centuriad series.
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Published: January 24th, 2012 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Format: Kindle edition; 384 pages.  
Source: ARC copy from publisher via NetGalley.
Challenge: YA/MG Fantasy Challenge

Malora was born with an affinity for horses, and desires nothing more than to follow in her father’s footsteps as a horse wrangler and hunter.  After leatherwings ravage her family’s settlement, destroying both men and horse, her mother sends her off into the plains with Sky--her father’s horse that was too big to be carried off--in order to secure her safety.  She begins a herd of her own, strong, black, fast horses, encountering no other being for three years.  When her herd, and Malora, are captured by a group of centaurs seeking horses to compete in an annual race, Malora finds herself surrounded by a completely foreign culture and way of life.  Malora determines the comforts of civilized living are worth losing her freedom, but she must determine how much she is willing to sacrifice.

So.  Okay.  I have to get this off my chest.  I like genre bending, but I’m quickly getting sick of books trying to pass off fantasy as science fiction in order to somehow jam it into trends that are currently more popular.  Daughter of the Centaurs was constructed like the opposite of Star Wars.  Instead of “A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away...” it supposedly is set “A long long time in the future right here on earth...”.  I cannot for the life of me understand why this was necessary.  There’s no explanation of the history of how centaurs and other creatures came about/if they were always there, and this would be fine if it weren’t supposed to be our world.  The only time this reality is even brought up within the story is through books, which I also had a huge issue with.  This is supposed to be so far in the future that humans are considered “living fossils” and yet our physical books have survived.  Not survived in that they were printed on high quality linen paper and preserved well in safe environments; survived in the sense that wealthy centaurs actually have our physical books like Dr. Seuss which was probably printed on highly acidic paper and they read them in their homes and what not.  Plus if Stephenie freaking Meyer is one of the “great” literary names that survives the test of time in a completely unironic way alongside the likes of Austen, Shakespeare, and Dickens, I WILL RISE FROM THE GRAVE AND CUT SOMEONE.  Honestly I really wish Daughter of the Centaurs had just embraced the fantasy label and either cut out the aspects that tied it to our current society, or provided stronger ties to make it more believable, as is, the story was weakened.

The narration of Daughter of the Centaurs is at times perfect.  It’s told in the present tense, making it very reminiscent of an oral tale one would hear spoken around the camp fire.  This works beautifully in the beginning of the story, while Malora is on her own save for her horses, but becomes slightly less effective as the story progresses.  The world and story that Klimo has constructed have a great base, but could use some trimming.  Daughter of the Centaurs could have made a good stand alone story, but I did not like most of the allusions towards future plots.  For example, Malora has visions of meeting a man in the future.  I loved that this story had no romance in it, as this is always refreshing, but the foreshadowing of a future romance to me seemed forced and irrelevant to the current story.  Again, this came across somewhat as an attempt to shove this book into a popular trend, and it would have been best left alone. There's a chance this is me just being a stick in the mud about preferring this story as a stand alone.

I did very much enjoy the featuring of centaurs as main characters.  I’ve never read a book where this was done before, and the society constructed with them was very interesting, if intentionally frivolous.  Malora comments at one point that she herself is more horse than the centaurs themselves, and for all intents and purposes, this is true.  Centaurs seem to be largely ashamed of their horse halves, attempting to cover any horselike scent, and going modestly clothed in order to minimize their animal half.  This aspect of the story was very well done, and created a nice counterpart between horse loving Malora and the horse shaming centaurs.  The power of olfactory stimulation from scents was very unique as well.  Orion, one of the centaurs to initially discover and befriend Malora, has a profession of creating scents--oils or perfumes that the centaurs use to disguise their horsey smells--and they have a powerful affect on Malora.  When Malora inhales the created scents, she is able to have visions associated with that smell, even if it is another’s memory.  Finally, the horse lore in Daughter of the Centaurs was fantastic.  Malora’s knowledge of and skill with horses is so well presented, her interactions with the animals easily became my favorite part of this story.    

Likelihood that I'll be back for more: Probably not, it was a very interesting premise, and it could have been a decent contained stand alone, but I’m not planning to continue with the series.

Recommended for:  Horse lovers, those interested in younger YA reads--Malora is 12-15, making this book older than middle grade, but more juvenile than most YA books out there.

Real life repercussions of reading this book: I miss riding!  I haven’t been for more than a decade, but I used to ride all the time as a kid.  Yeah...I did 4-H.  Check the awesome wrangling prowess (and highwaters):

Heidi horseback riding by Bunbury in the Stacks

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