Annotation: When her entire tribe is killed, fifteen-year-old Malora Thora-Jayke leaves the plains she grew up in and travels into the bush with Sky, her father’s prize horse. After Malora and Sky encounter other wild horses, she soon has a whole herd to look after. Worried that she will never meet another one of the People and will spend her life alone in the wild, Malora is stunned when she and her herd attract the attention of Orion, a centaur, and his cousins and servants from the centaur settlement of Mount Kheiron.
Personal thoughts: I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I really like Greek mythology so the centaur aspect of it was entertaining for me. On the other hand, I am not a horse person, so the very detailed accounts of flanks, muzzles, and whinnies didn’t appeal to me. I think there are some clever ideas in the novel, but they got too muddled down by horse minutia. I would easily recommend this book to someone who loves all things equine. If that wasn’t the case, however, I probably would select something else.
Plot summary: In the distant future, twelve-year-old Malora is the daughter of Thora and Jayke, the leaders of the last tribe of the People. Malora’s tribe relies on their horses to hunt and bring game to feed the People, and no horse is faster than her father’s, Sky. Malora wants nothing more than to learn to become a hunter herself and have her own horse like Sky to look after. Malora’s life changes, however, when Leatherwings, vicious creatures with horrible human heads and large bat-like wings, murder all of the men in the tribe while they are on the hunt. Thora knows that the Leatherwings will return to finish off the rest of the tribe, so she sends Malora and Sky, the only horse that survived the attack, away from the tribe and into the wild. After three years on her own, Malora is now fifteen and the keeper of a large herd of horses thanks to Sky meeting with several wild mares in the bush. Malora knows every horse and protects them from predators, all the while wondering if she herself will ever encounter any other People. One day as Malora and the herd are travelling in the north, they catch the attention of Orion and his cousins, a travelling party of centaurs from the luxurious city of Mount Kheiron. Orion intends to capture the wild herd to serve his father, the leader of Mount Kheiron, in an annual race, and is shocked to discover Malora amongst the horses. None of the centaurs have ever laid eyes on one of the People, who were rumored to be long extinct, and both Orion and Malora are shocked to learn that not only are they able to communicate, but have more in common than they would have ever thought.
Review: Combining fantasy with a post-apocalyptic future, this first installment in a new series for young adult readers will appeal to fans of Greek mythology, but holds particular interest for horse enthusiasts. The author’s love for horses is apparent in every aspect of the novel. Everything about the horses, from the way they eat, to the noises they make, to their general behavior is described in depth. Horse lovers are sure to relish these details. For readers who aren’t equine aficionados, however, the plot of the novel itself might not be as exciting. Malora is a likable if somewhat underdeveloped character. While the story primarily focuses on her, there is little exploration into her personality apart from being a robust and skilled huntress. She shows little vulnerability and it’s unclear if she has romantic feelings for any of the handsome male centaurs she becomes close to in the story. Far more interesting is the centaur civilization of Mount Kheiron, a luxurious but strict city divided into the haves (the Highlanders) and the have-nots (the Flatlanders.) Malora is lucky enough to become the “pet” of Orion, the son of Mount Kheiron’s leader, or Apex, so she has a rags-to-riches experience in the fanciest part of town. Hopefully in the next installments in the series, more about how Mount Kheiron was established will be explained so that the reader will fully understand how the distinction between Highlanders and Flatlanders came about. For horse fans, Daughter of the Centaurs is an enjoyable and different kind of read than they may have experienced. For those who aren’t as excited by things on four legs, this story might be one to pass by. The sequel, A Gathering of Wings, is set to be released May 28, 2013.
Reading level: Grade 7+
Similar titles: Earth’s Children series by Jean M. Auel.
Themes: Horses, centaurs, post-apocalyptic, dystopian, death, the wilderness, fantasy.
Awards/Reviews: Positive reviews from VOYA and The Bulletin.
Series Information: First novel in Centauriad series. Second novel, A Gathering of Wings, set to be released May 28, 2013.
Discussion questions:- Who do you think Malora was closer with: Thora or Jayke? Why?
- How do you explain the presence of all of the mythical or fantastical creatures in Malora’s future? What other post-apocalyptic observations did you make while reading the novel?
- Why do you think it was so important for Malora to name her horses?
- Who was your favorite character in the novel? Why?
- Do you think Orion truly viewed Malora as a pet? Why or why not?
- What do you think is the significance of Malora's reaction to the scents?
- Why do you think the Apex denied Malora’s choice for her Hand? Do you think he regretted that decision?
- What would you like to see happen in the sequel?