Tag Archives: centaurs

Sky Bounce

Title: Sky Bounce

Author: Deanna Miller

Hesper, a winged Alula, is not supposed to know someone like Tristan, the Boytaur. The female Alulas hold themselves strictly separate from the male Mantaurs, but Hesper has made friends with one. When Hesper stumbles across something she shouldn’t have seen, she is sent to the human planes. Tristan vows to follow her, but crossing planes has its own hazards.

I wish I didn’t have to wince writing out that description. Boytaur? Mantaur? Just . . . no. They should’ve had a name like Alula, something that could hint at species without being so clunky. The racial division is also a gender division, and the revelation partway through of how they manage to propagate was also rather strained.

That said, this was otherwise what I had expected: a light fantasy/romance between a winged girl and a centaur, spread out between multiple parallel planes of existence. Traveling between the planes has its cost, and isn’t something done lightly.

The overall dilemma works better between Hesper and Tristan than the threat of things that blend the various planes. The big picture stuff tends to be vague and has a similarly vague conclusion, but the tension between the two of them against the world plays out pretty well.

Overall this is not a bad read, but it’s hard to get past some things like the naming conventions. I rate this book Neutral.


Watersmeet (Watersmeet #1)

Title: Watersmeet

Author: Ellen Jensen Abbott

Series: Watersmeet #1

Abisina is an Outcast in her village of Vranille, mostly for her dark skin and hair. Her mother is the town’s only healer, but it only buys her the right not to be thrown outside the walls entirely and left to the ruthless centaurs who prowl these lands. But when disaster strikes, and Abisina is left to fend for herself, she finds that not everything she has been told is the truth—not about herself, her family, or her world.

In a nutshell, this is a decent book about a young girl learning to overcome prejudice. Abisina may hate Vranille and its ways, but she’s picked up more of their mannerisms than she would care to admit, which makes dealing with nonhuman species such a challenge. Though it doesn’t help that many of those species would happily kill humans in a continuation of the atrocities both sides have been inflicting on each other.

I liked Rueshlan best. He’s an interesting man with some interesting gifts, and is one of the few with any level of magic. The explanation for power is completely missing, but it’s still fun to watch what he can do.

There also isn’t a lot done with history that isn’t relevant to the immediate story. The mines are a big part of Haret’s thoughts, but it all ends in a disappointing “I told you so.” And no clues are uncovered about the event (that had to be magic) that sealed them off. And then everyone just moves on because other things are happening. It still feels like there’s a lot beneath the surface, but the story stays tightly focused on its one main point which causes some potentially interesting sidequests to get ignored.

That said, it’s still a very simple story at heart, even though Abisina grants more complexity than I usually see when writers are dealing with this topic. If you like stories about prejudice, this one is well done. For myself, I’d rather have more action-adventure. I rate this book Neutral.

Deep Secret (Magids #1)

Title: Deep Secret

Author: Diana Wynne Jones

Series: Magids #1

Rupert  Venables, as the youngest Magid, gets the jobs nobody else wants. Like being on call to the Empire of Koryfos, a kingdom situated at the junction of the multiverse that separates the worlds with magic and the worlds without. An Empire so paranoid about coups that its heirs—by law—aren’t even allowed to know they ARE heirs. So when an attack takes out the Emperor and most of his court, the Empire has no way of knowing where to look for its line of succession. On top of that, more ordinary concerns, like finding a new Magid to replace his mentor or actually doing his day job, are pulling Rupert in a hundred different directions. But everything has so many different ways of going WRONG . . .

I don’t really care for the more kid-friendly cartoon cover, as that masks some of the more adult situations that come up in this book, like the orgy happening at the back of the con party. It’s not as though the book dwells on them, but since they are present, I would hope younger kids aren’t making it far enough to ask really awkward questions (or worse, deciding to look it up themselves).  This is more unfortunate because the sequel really is good for a younger age range, which makes it more likely for a determined kid to hunt this one down.

That said, the book is classic Diana Wynne Jones: lots of characters who are so amazingly HUMAN in all their weirdness and foibles, a plot that looks simple and turns into a complicated maze that unfolds in just the right way at the end, multiverses, magicians, and a lot of great magic. I’m pretty sure the planets Thule and Blest come up in some of her other books, too, so there’s some nice continuity if you’ve read more of her books.

Rupert shares the narration with Maree, who was one of his candidates for Magid until he actually met her. That meeting goes so badly he sets up spells to keep her away from him (which she foils completely by accident). Rupert the neat freak, the rich man, and presumably handsome, clashes intensely with poor, dumpy, ugly Maree, who despite all that is quite fierce and determined and not about to let anything keep her from doing what she needs to do. Their interactions are some of the funniest moments in the book.

It’s also not hard to imagine Diana Wynne Jones may have had real people in mind when she wrote the writer’s conference. For all the aliens, centaurs, and magicians who are using the conference for their own ends, the ordinary people are actually weirder. (And the poor conference manager who is trying desperately to keep things on track as the weekend spirals more and more out of control.) And the villains range from that one lady who grabs you and JUST WON’T STOP TALKING to people with no hesitation about shooting children in cold blood. She’s a master at spanning the range of ordinary frustrations to the black depths of evil. She shows people who are people in all their beauty and nastiness, however many legs they happen to walk on.

I do happen to like the sequel more (because Nick is amazing and he gets a much bigger role in the next book), but this one is well worth a read for those mature enough to handle some of the more adult pieces of the story.  I rate this book Recommended.