2 Rated Books Book Reviews DNF Books

Joint Review: Daughter of the Centaurs by Kate Klimo

Title: Daughter of the Centaurs

Author: Kate Klimo

Genre: Science Fiction, Post-Apocalyptic, Fantast, Young Adult

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication date: January 24th 2012
Hardcover: 384 pages

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.

Stand alone or series: Centauriad Book #1

How did we get this book: Review copies from the publisher via NetGalley

Why did we read this book: There are motherfreaking Centaurs in the motherfreaking Future!

REVIEW

On The Cover:

We must start this post by saying that we strongly believe the cover of Daughter of the Centaurs to be the latest case of Whitewashing.

The story is set in Africa. The protagonist of the book is described as being “dark-skinned” whose “skin and hair are the dusky red-brown”. At various points in the story, attention is called to the earthen red-brown tones of her skin (especially as Malora tries on pretty Centaur dresses).

The person on this cover – presumably the protagonist – appears as a fair-skinned Caucasian.

To whitewash is to use a white representation for a character that is not white and it is a sickening form of discrimination that must end.

Ana’s Take:

When I first heard about Daughter of the Centaurs I got super excited about it. I am going through this Mythology phase and was really looking forward to reading it. Then, I started reading news about the book and realised it was not to be the Fantasy I was hoping for. Instead, the story is supposedly a Post-Apocalyptic/Science Fiction tale set at some point in the future which made me even more curious about it. Unfortunately, I ended up not finishing the book, making to the halfway mark and then putting it aside.

It wasn’t because of the protagonist – I actually really loved Malora, she was definitely an awesome example of female character in YA: cool, tough, and full of agency. It wasn’t the story – the premise was full of potential: the last human on earth meets with an advanced society of Centaurs (although the awesome premise was so poorly executed). It wasn’t the narrative as its present tense-third person narration did not bother me at all. Although I felt that the Post-Apocalyptic/Science Fiction elements were unnecessary and not really integrated in the novel, I will refrain from commenting on those because I didn’t read till the end so I don’t know how it develops. For the same reason, I will also refrain from commenting on how queasy I felt about the HAPPY SLAVES aka, the race of beings that live in servitude to the Centaurs and are so grateful for it (but I am sure Thea will be able to tell us more).

No. Here are the main two reasons I stopped reading the book:

First of all, the story is supremely boring. For a book about THE LAST HUMAN ON EARTH, who encounters a tribe of EXTREMELY ADVANCED CENTAURS and taking into consideration how each side never even knew the other existed, the novel is remarkably devoid of tension or conflict. But what makes it all the more boring is the sheer amount of exposition. From the moment Malora meets the Centaurs, the story is developed in conversation format in which characters basically info-dump everything about the Centaur society. It is really, really clumsy. The author created this really fleshed out, in-depth world for the centaurs and then proceeds to TELL us about it, instead of SHOWING us. And despite all the in-depth elements, unfortunately there is nothing really NEW about this society. I feel this could have been any society in any given period of time.

And then, of course, there were the horses.

Folks, I couldn’t sleep because of the horses. I found myself Googling about horse breeding at 1 AM. I was driven to distraction by the horses. Please bear in mind the following facts:

1) Horse pregnancy usually lasts 11 months;
2) Horses rarely have twins;
3) A mare usually starts breeding on its second year of life.

Now consider this: at the beginning of the novel, Malora leaves her settlement to live all alone in the prairie with only her beloved stallion Sky for company until they find a mare named Shadow to join them. This is what happens next:

It is not long before Shadow’s belly bulges. In the spring, she drops twins. And so the herd begins to expand. True to her vow to leave no horse nameless, Malora names each one as it slips of its damn and into the world. First come Coal and Lightning. Then Silky and Raven and Blacky and Posy. These horses, in various combinations over time, produce Charcoal, Ember, Smoke, Fancy, Streak, and Stormy.

By the third spring – Malora’s fifteenth year – there are fifteen horses in Malora’s cave, including Sky and Shadow.

Bearing in mind the horse breeding facts aforementioned, the above is simply NOT.POSSIBLE.

UNLESS these are either magical or genetically modified horses which, considering the Fantasy/Scifi context of this novel, might be the explanation. But there was nothing even remotely indicative that these are not regular horses except for, you know, the fact that they reproduce like rabbits.

Still, let’s say I accept the premise that these could be a magical and/or Science Fictional horses. Here is the thing: the fact that I was so concerned about the mechanics of horse breeding is pretty much an indication of how bored I was about the actual story and THAT should tell you everything there is to know about my reading experience.

Alas, it’s my first DNF of the year.

Thea’s Take:

Unlike Ana, I did manage to slog my way through this novel to the end (although I should disclose that I engaged in liberal skimming towards the last 80 or so pages of the book). Like Ana, however, I found myself supremely underwhelmed and increasingly frustrated with this novel.

First, the good: I think the premise of the novel is brilliant. I started the book expecting a Fantasy novel (unlike Ana’s experience, as she had read some other peoples’ interpretations and was expecting Apocalyptic SF), and was surprised, not necessarily in a bad way, by the integration of Science Fiction-ish elements. We learn that Malora’s world is, in fact, our own. We learn that Centaurs maybe-possibly were genetically engineered by humans, as presumably are the many other fantasy-ish creatures in the mix. Thus, Daughter of the Centaurs is actually an SF novel that plays on the destroyed/post-apocalyptic hi-tech society meets low-tech devolvement trope, with the integration of elements that seem very much like magic (for example, Orion the Centaur makes perfumes that unlock impossible past and future visions for Malora – visions of men in white lab coats performing tests on animals, of Orion as a young Centaur, and so on). There are talking cat-creatures called Twani, Centaurs, and something like a Satyr. When fantasy and SF intersect, it can be a very cool thing (see Catherine Fisher or Pedar O’Guilin or Jaine Fenn).

Unfortunately, in Daughter of the Centaurs this is not the case.

Unlike Ana, I hated the narrative style of the book. Third person present tense annoys the bejeezus outta me – almost as much as first person present tense – and in this type of fantasy-cum-sci-fi novel, it had a strangely offputting, distancing effect on the plot and characters. Additionally, the writing was rife with Exclamation! Points! (including a chapter title that ends in an exclamation point!) which is also incredibly irritating. These are personal stylistic preferences, though, so understandably other experiences may vary.

Much more frustrating than writing style, however, was the utter lack of a central conflict. There is nothing propelling this story forward. The entire book is, as Ana says, a giant exposition-laden info-dump, full of conversations that, while mildly interesting, amount to nothing of significance. Hence, the strong urge to write the book off as a DNF (I don’t blame Ana in the slightest, as this was an exceptionally boring story).

There’s also the incredible offensiveness of the system of Centaurs and their Twani, a race of happy, work-themselves-literally-to-death slaves that wait on the Centaurs because it is their immense honor to do so and they wouldn’t know what to do with themselves without the oh-so-honorable task of helping a Centaur use the bathroom and groom themselves. It’s possible that I missed the part of the book where the Twani are given a voice and are portrayed as more than subservient happy slaves, given as I was so mind-numbingly bored by the last quarter of the book, but I highly doubt it. If there was a metaphor or deeper meaning to these class divisions, Ms. Klimo does not do a good job of communicating that message.

This, combined with the offensively whitewashed cover (which, to be fair, is not the author’s fault nor does it have anything to do with the book itself), sucked out any potential enjoyment I had of the novel.

Notable quotes/parts:

From the opening pages:

For as long as she can remember, Malora has dreamed of dancing with horses.

“Daughter of the Mountains,” Malora’s mother calls her, for her skin and hair are the dusky red-brown of the rocks, and her upturned eyes—so like her father’s—are the vivid blue-green of the nuggets of malachite that dot the streams running down from the peaks. But when Malora hears her-self so called, she frowns. “No!” she insists. “Not the mountains! I am the Daughter of the Plains.”

For the horses come from the plains.

These are the days when the People occupy the Settlement, a mere one hundred men, women, and children living together in a canyon in the shadow of the mountains that rear up over the plains running to the north. From this canyon, the men ride out on horseback every dawn to hunt, leaving the women to keep the houses and raise the children. Like all the women, Malora’s mother has a secondary job, and hers is healer. She expects her daughter to follow in her footsteps, as she has in those of her own mother, and so on, as far back as any of them can remember, to the time of the Grandparents. Malora is an only child, as well as the sole survivor of a juvenile epidemic that wiped out all the children born within three years of her. Many in the Settlement believe that it was her mother’s skill at healing that saved Malora and, while no one can prove it, her mother’s witchery that killed all the others. Malora knows this to be ridiculous, but it has discouraged her from pursuing the healing arts.

Rating:

Ana: DNF

Thea: 2 – Complete Waste of Time

Buy the Book:

Ebook available for kindle US, kindle UK, nook, kobo, google and sony

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15 Comments

  • Phoebe North
    January 27, 2012 at 8:49 am

    It’s possible that I missed the part of the book where the Twani are given a voice and are portrayed as more than subservient happy slaves, given as I was so mind-numbingly bored by the last quarter of the book, but I highly doubt it.

    Nope, you didn’t.

  • Etta
    January 27, 2012 at 9:09 am

    Finishing this one was a struggle. I was also bothered by the complete lack of tension. Two cultures colliding has the potential to be a great story, but this was just soooooo boring. The slave race was really offensive and totally illogical. The Twani are part cat, but I can’t help thinking that having cat DNA would make them the worst servants ever. The only parts I enjoyed were the bits about the horses, but when Malora basically abandons her horses once she arrives in the Centaur’s city, I decided I couldn’t stand her.

  • April Books & Wine
    January 27, 2012 at 9:20 am

    I’m glad you guys call out whitewashing. Seems like a lot of people just look past that.

    I am also having buyer’s remorse about requesting this on Netgalley.

  • April
    January 27, 2012 at 9:32 am

    Darn. I was really looking forward to this because of the centaurs, but I appreciate being saved from purchasing this book and then flinging it across the room.

  • Deserae
    January 27, 2012 at 10:34 am

    Sorry you didn’t like it! In all fairness, though, the girl on the cover MIGHT have some ethnic diversity. As my mom loves to remind me, cheekbones are everything. Lord… Anywho, glad to know this isn’t a must read. I’ve been following you guys for a while now and my TBR list is now almost strictly comprised of your recommends.

  • TDF Pamela
    January 27, 2012 at 10:53 am

    Whew, I’m glad I read your joint review. I was thinking about requesting this from Amazon Vine, but now I think I’ll just pick something else. It’s so frustrating when books either ignore accuracy or don’t have enough research behind them. The illogical horse pregnancy thing would have driven me up the wall. My dad actually has two horses who are twins, but yeah, twins are rare, and it’s not like horses pop out new foals every four months.

  • Lindsay
    January 27, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    I think I liked this a little more than you guys did – I likened the early portions of the book to a fantasy-based Island of the Blue Dolphins, although I think that with all the births I was misreading and assuming that she spent a LOT longer in the wild than the book said. But yes, once the centaurs are introduced, the book only answered questions I wasn’t interested in, and ignored all the things that could have been interesting.

  • Christie
    January 27, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    I had high hopes for this one & even requested a copy from Amazon Vine. After reading your review, I really wish I hadn’t. & whitewashing (& the message it sends) seriously makes my blood boil.

  • Andrea
    January 28, 2012 at 5:36 am

    The review’s logistics of horse-breeding has left me with a vision of half-human half-rabbit centaurs going hippity-hoppity across the plains. 😉

    Oh, and a book rec if you want a classic fantasy world born from post-apocalypt: “The Darkangel” by Meredith Ann Pierce. It’s a very strange and sad and beautiful story (a trilogy, but you can read the first book as a stand-alone).

  • Heidi
    January 28, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    I had all of the same issues with this book as you guys did, and was particularly annoyed by the Twani and the whitewashing. I found the narrative structure worked for the first part of the book when Malora is alone, because it felt somewhat like a folk tale, but completely fell apart as soon as dialog was introduced into the book. I like genre bending when done well, but it was done very poorly here, and I had to work very hard to force myself through the book.

  • Lou
    January 28, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    I requested this over at Netgalley, and I DNF early on in the book. It was so incredibly boring. Also I couldn’t understand the thoughts and behaviour of the heroine where she showed more emotion about getting her Father’s horse rather than showing any grief at her Father’s violent death.

  • Jodie
    January 30, 2012 at 3:24 am

    I joined you in googling the horses after reading this review to make sure I had it right that ‘damn’ is ‘dam’ when it comes to horses. Is that just a one off typo, or is it repeated?

    Thanks to you and Phoebe for highlighting the whitewashing and happy slave stereotype.

  • Ari
    January 31, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    What’s funny is even in that one passage the third person present tense annoyed me and usually it doesn’t. But the sentence “Malora knows this to be….” jars with the past tense of the rest of the paragraph and it was an infodump so bleh.

    I’m glad you noticed the whitewashing because I definitely skipped over this book when I was compiling my list of 2012 releases….

    And oh yes some people were just born to serve and if only they could live their lives on their knees they could die happy *rolls eyes* bleh

  • Jacob Akaron
    April 21, 2013 at 12:33 am

    I just read a book by Philip Vago called Sagitarius the Fall of the Centaur. Perhaps this is the sort of fantasy you were looking for?

  • PityTheFool
    June 4, 2013 at 12:24 am

    Unlike all of you, I LOVED this book and I’m going to read the entire series. And , here’s an idea, maybe there were so many horses because the horses mated MULTIPLE times. Lots of mating=more horses. If it was 3 years and the mare has to be 2 years old, it could happen! I’m not the biggest fan of third person but I loved how she did this. I say spend the money and read it. Don’t waste your time reading reviews and give the book a chance. Don’t judge a book by its review. You may love it while someone else hates it. Read it!! It’s really good!

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