I’m just going to put this out there: Centaurs are super cool. And yes, you can judge me for my nerdiness. Greek mythology, Narnia, and Harry Potter – none of you did anything to cure me of this! And then came Kate Klimo’s Daughter of the Centaurs.
Malora knows what she was born to be: a horse wrangler and a hunter, just like her father. But when her people are massacred by batlike monsters called Leatherwings, Malora will need her horse skills just to survive. The last living human, Malora roams the wilderness at the head of a band of magnificent horses, relying only on her own wits, strength, and courage. When she is captured by a group of centaurs and taken to their city, Malora must decide whether the comforts of her new home and family are worth the parts of herself she must sacrifice to keep them.
Kate Klimo has masterfully created a new world, which at first seems to be an ancient one or perhaps another world altogether, but is in fact set on earth sometime far in the future.
The first chapters of Kate Klimo’s book seem to promise something excellent. Deadly Leatherwings threaten Malora’s small settlement, and the scene is set with impossible choices and an interesting world. Then, everything goes south. Warning: if you liked Daughter of the Centaurs, read no further.
Oh, how many things went horribly wrong? Let me count them:
1) Third person present tense. This is the goofiest narrative voice ever. It almost spoiled the first bit of the book for me (the only decent bit, as it turned out). It is awkward. It deadens any connection between character and the reader. It. Is. Terrible. Experiment: read some of the text aloud and tell me it doesn’t sound stilted. See?
2) Twani. One of the interesting things about Daughter of the Centaurs is that it’s not all centaurs all the time. There are humans, Leatherwings, horses, other unique beings, and the Twani. Twani are described as cat-like creatures whose life goal is to serve the centaurs. In fact, they work themselves so hard that they sometimes die. In servitude. No explanation. I'll move on before I get upset.
3) Total loss of tension. As mentioned above, Daughter of the Centaurs opened well. I could overlook the narrative voice and other small annoyances as long as the plot moved along at a strong clip and Malora was going places and doing things that furthered her journey. Unfortunately, almost as soon as Malora and the centaurs made contact, the book slowed down. It eventually stalled out in info dump territory. Class tensions weren’t tense. Family disagreements weren’t true obstacles. Shady characters never developed into sinister villains (or anything else, for that matter). The text meandered, told, and pontificated, but the thrill that drew this reader in? Disappeared completely.
4) The wise pet. Oops, I mean the faun tutor (and now it sounds as though we’ve fallen into Narnia, I know). This was something that made my skin itch. When Malora comes to live with the centaurs, one of the first beings she meets Honus, a combination tutor and pet. It is disconcerting and disturbing to see the objectification and ‘ownership’ of sentient beings throughout the book, especially when it is NEVER unpacked. If there was any self-consciousness evident in the writing at all, I could be reconciled to it. Instead, there is none. And it feels creepy.
This list is by no means exhaustive. For further insight, check out The Book Smugglers’ take. They were the ones who identified the narrative voice - I didn't even know what it was called. *le sigh* Another interesting note: according to Amazon, Daughter of the Centaurs is a young adult title. I found it to be very juvenile (and thus the label 'middle grade').
Kate Klimo’s Daughter of the Centaurs was not for me – in fact, I got to a point where I actively disliked it. I kept reading in hope… but I urge you not to make the same mistake.