Author: Kate Klimo
Publication: Random House Books for Young Readers (January 24, 2012)
Description: 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.
My Thoughts: I was swept away by the world-building and the characters in this fantasy/dystopia. Malora is one of the few children of the small remaining Settlement of humans. Her mother is the Healer and her father is in charge of the horses and hunting. While it is traditional for girls to take up their mother's role, Malora wants to work with the horses. She knows that working with the horses is her destiny. She does convince her family and learns to care for and train the horses. But when she is twelve years old, the hunters are attacked by Leatherwings who kill them all. The Leatherwings attack the settlement too. Malora's mother sends her off with the horses and tells her never to return.
Malora spends three years on the Plains alone except for the herd of horses she assembles. She gets to know them and even think like them as she assumes the role of lead horse. When her horses are captured by a group of centaurs, her life changes unimaginably. They are as astonished to see her. The centaurs believed that all the humans had been killed. She is taken by the centaurs to their fantastic city. Mount Kheiron is a place of art, beauty, and education and is the home of the Highlanders - the upper class centaurs. She is made a pet of by Orion and Zephele - two of the children of the Apex who is the leader of the centaurs.
Malora is out of her depth. She had never imagined a life like she is living in Mount Kheiron. She learns about how the Highlanders live and about the Flatlanders too. She is convinced that centaurs are Perfect Beings. But gradually she begins to see that there is a lot of imperfection under the glossy picture.
A lot of the story revolves around a horse race to win the Golden Horse. It is an annual contest that happens on Founder's Day. The centaurs were out looking for horses to train for the race when they found Malora and her herd. They wanted to find better horses so that the Highlanders could finally win the trophy. There is great rivalry between the Highlanders and Flatlanders. There is also great disparity in the lives of Highlanders and Flatlanders. The Highlanders have lives of wealth and privilege. They have ample leisure time to pursue art, music, and dance. The Flatlanders are poor and work hard to survive.
The story introduced a number of different creatures. The Leatherwings are man-sized creatures that resemble bats. The Twani who serve the centaurs remind Malora of the old story of Puss in Boots. When she gets to Mount Kheiron she meets Honus who is half goat, half human being who is the pet of the Apex and who is a scholar who is charged with the education of the Apex's children. He is also put in charge of Malora's integration into the centaur society. He is the one who tells her about the distant past when the Scientists created the various creatures that now inhabit the world. He also shares great literature with her from Shakespeare and Stephenie Meyer, among others.
One recurring theme that goes through the book has to do with the visions that Malora has when she smells the various scent concoctions that Orion makes. She smells them and then has visions most of which come true during the course of this story. But some are left tantalizingly incomplete and give us some hints of what might happen in the next books in this series.
I really enjoyed this story. In fact, I stayed up late and got up early in order to keep reading. I can't wait to see what happens in the next books.
"Anything centaurs do with our hands is considered important. Properly mixed and prepared, scents establish the very tone of society. They control emotions and set moods. I've seen them bring about radical transformations. They can make a drowsy soul feel lively and an overly excited one find peace. They can attract mates and repel enemies and bring forth dormant emotions and suppress unwanted ones. They can make for happy, lively, gracious households. A home without scent is a cold cell. I'm proud to have chosen alchemy as my Hand."I got this one from the Amazon Vine program. You can buy your copy here.