Released: January 24th 2012 Pages: 362
Publisher: Random House Source: Library
First Look: ***** This book looked awesome because a)centaurs, b) horses, c) is that not the same girl that's on the cover of Blue Flame? and c) CENTAURS. Before I saw the tagline, I thought the main character would be a centaur, which is a unique perspective I've never read before. She's not a centaur, though--she's human. And before reading, I thought that she was literally a daughter of centaurs. I spent way too long trying to figure out how that works (I don't recommend doing this).
Setting: ***** Apparently this was supposed to be some sort of dystopian novel, based off reading some other reviews. I can see how it might be our world, but after something devastated all our technology and reverting us back to square one. I can't see how the centaurs and other assorted creatures would have come about.
Barring the dystopian aspect, though, the rest of the setting never did much for me. The centaurs, as a society, came off as frivolous, illogical, and immature. I understand that their overwhelming passion for the arts was supposed to come off as a little impractical. And yet, for me, it went over the top. I couldn't respect them. They devote their lives to things such as sculpting, painting, or making mosaics, while leaving the day-to-day cooking, cleaning, and such to another species that's basically a slave race. (Hello, House Elves?) When Malora, the main character, shows interest in becoming a blacksmith, everyone (including the blacksmith) thinks she's insane. While the worldbuilding was in-depth, it just didn't work for me.
Characters: ***** The problem I had with Malora was that nothing seemed to affect her. When all of the men from her tribe, including her father, are killed right in front of her (this isn't a spoiler--anyone who has read the back cover of this book will know that this happens), she barely even reacts. She just gets whiny because she loses her favorite horse. The rest of her people are killed, and she barely even cries. She just doesn't have any emotions. Except at the end when she becomes super-protective of her horses. Then she gets angry and starts bossing people around, sometimes rudely. Apart from that, she didn't do anything--she just let things happen to her.
Other characters were either obnoxious or flat. Or both. Orion never gave me any distinct sense of personality, nor did any of the other major centaurs. Neal showed a little promise, but he wasn't given a big enough part in the story for me to get to know him better. I couldn't stand Zephele--she just never stopped talking, and it made her seem shallow. And annoying. I can't abide people who never stop talking.
Plot: ***** For the first part, there was a plot. It moved along at a good pace, and had action. It presented an actual problem that the characters had to face. There was conflict, between Malora and the people of the tribe, and between the tribe and the Leatherwings.
Unfortunately, though, that level of conflict dropped off quickly. After that, there wasn't really a plot. At that point it became a 300-page tour of the centaurs' society and culture.
Uniqueness: ***** Apart from the tidbit about House Elves, I can safely say I've never read anything like this before. Centaurs are a rare topic in YA fiction. The setting in general was a different take on centaurs, and mythical creatures in general.
Writing: ***** Third person + present tense=lots of awkward phrases and a generally bad combination. I don't know if I've ever seen this combination work well. This book wasn't an exception. The phrasing was often awkward, disorienting, or both. It skimmed over seemingly important things with not much thought. For example, it suddenly jumped a few years (the time Malora spent alone in the wild) with no transition, which confused me at first. If you're going to have a huge gap in your story, you have to clue your reader in on it before you just drop them on the other side without warning.
Likes: Nothing not already mentioned above.
Not-so-great: Are we not going to talk about the cover model's collarbone and shoulder? Is it just me, or does she look absurdly bony, or is that just the angle and the background? Model, go eat some cake, please. Preferably an entire cake.
Also, what was with Malora's fascination and obsession with small talk? She keeps yearning for small talk with her mother. I can't understand this. She seems to not understand the concept. Here's the definition of small talk: polite conversation about unimportant or uncontroversial matters, esp. as engaged in on social occasions. It is, by definition, unimportant and shallow. You talk about the weather and your health but neither person really cares what the other is saying. So what's the point? Why would anyone long for this? I'm an INTJ--small talk is the kind of thing that makes us scream internally because we recognize how pointless it is but sometimes we just can't avoid it.
"Herself and Father feel that I've been adversely influenced by reading far too many books about love. Ancients like Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen and Victoria Roberts and Danielle Steele and Nico Simonette and Shakespeare and Stephenie Meyer."
How about...no. This is what survives into humanity's future? Danielle Steele and Stephenie Meyer? No wonder people talk with such fear about an impending apocalypse.
Overall: Daughter of the Centaurs was an awkwardly written book with hardly any plot to speak of. The setting was unique, but it also dominated the book and didn't make room for other important aspects like characterization or conflict. The main character, Malora, showed no emotion, and she never did anything. Other characters, like Zephele, just annoyed me. Overall, I wouldn't recommend this, and I won't be reading the sequel.
Similar Books: It involved humans interacting with horse-like creatures like The Scorpio Races (though in all other aspects they're very different books). It also reminds me of Dragonswood and Brightly Woven, though I don't have a good reason why.