A primitive girl bonds with horses and centaurs in this tedious trilogy opener.
After a flock of Leatherwings decimates her tribe and home, young Malora Thora-Jayke spends four years in the wilderness with her father’s horse, Sky. When Orion Silvermane captures a herd of Ironbound Furies for his father’s stables, he discovers Malora among them. Given Malora’s unruly appearance, skill with weapons and apparent status as the last of the legendarily violent People, Orion and his companions treat her as curiosity and threat. Both 15-year-old Malora and her hosts regard centaurs as “Perfect Beings”; unlike their rapacious ancestors or Malora’s people, Orion and the other Highland centaurs abstain from meat, wear clothing for modesty and pursue the arts. Menial labor falls to the impoverished Flatlanders and the subservient catlike Twani, and horses are merely beasts of burden, but a sports-movie conclusion ultimately dispels the inter-class tension. With safety, Malora’s compelling quest for survival becomes a montage of high-society indulgence punctuated by scenes of existential angst and more horses. Malora is alternately “the Daughter” of the Plains, Mountains and Centaurs, but labels do not constitute an inner journey. Characters are plentiful but underdeveloped, pacing is uneven, present-tense narration is ponderous and worldbuilding is exposition-heavy. The abundance of capitalized words and named characters (and horses) merits a glossary, character list and the Edicts of Kheiron.
Does not gallop apace. (Fantasy. 12 & up)