Title: The Centaur’s Daughter
Author: Ellen Jensen Abbot
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish
May Contain Spoilers
The Centaur’s Daughter is the sequel to Watersmeet, a book I read about a year ago and enjoyed quite a bit. Fantasy novels like these are few and far between in the YA realm, which is unfortunate, because fantasy is one of my favorite genres. Despite some minor flaws, this is a nice set of books that feature a strong female lead. It has been rewarding to see the changes in Abisina, and to see how much she has grown as a person. The Abisina from the first book was not a character that I especially cared for, but she was a product of her repressive, prejudiced environment. It’s only now, after she has been introduced to a society that is welcoming of all people that she has been allowed to grow and leave her old, rigid ways of thinking behind her.
After her father’s death, Abisina is just trying to get through each day as it comes. She misses him terribly, and she sees how much the people of Watersmeet depended on his wisdom. Now that Glynholly has taken her father’s place as the leader of Watersmeet, life has gotten a bit complicated for her. Having turned down a request to step into her father’s place and fill the void in leadership, Abisina is bewildered by Glynholly’s animosity towards her. With refuges flooding the land around Watersmeet, food is harder to come by, and the uberwolves are making even short trips outside of Watersmeet hazardous.
With the added pressure to feed the citizens of Watersmeet and protect them from outside threats, Glynholly begins to view Abisina as a rival to her authority. When Abisina is abruptly cast out of the city with only a few of her friends at her side, the young woman decides to cross back over the Obrun Mountains to her homeland. She has heard that the village of Vranlyn is struggling to survive. She sees the importance of helping them overcome their difficulties; if Watersmeet is going to thrive, the humans in Vrania must learn the importance of getting along with the diverse beings inhabiting both Vrania and the lands to the North.
Once again prejudice and discrimination are explored throughout The Centaur’s Daughter. This time, Abisina has learned to embrace the diversity around her, but she is still haunted by her treatment at the hands of the Vranians. When she discovers that she has the ability to transform into a centaur like her father, she is terrified. How will her friends treat her? Will they still accept her? Will they still be her friends? Abisina is so afraid of their reactions that she keeps her new ability a secret, even when it would have helped her in her conflict with Glynholly. After years and years of abuse because she looked different from the Vranian ideal, she has no self-confidence. My heart really went out to her, because even though she has come a long way, she will always be influenced by her childhood and the lack of acceptance that she suffered. Now that she is a shape-shifter, all of her old fears and doubts come crashing, convincingly, back into her mind. It’s fear that keeps her from revealing her new skills to her friends, and it causes so much tension between all of them.
I found Abisina’s inner struggle very compelling. I did not like her when I first met her in Watersmeet. In this installment of the series, she is a stronger, more accepting character. She has learned to value others for who they are, and not what they look like. It’s herself she can no longer accept. She is no longer comfortable with herself, or with what she has become. Instead of putting her faith in her friends, she closes herself off from them. I had so much sympathy for her in this book, which was a feeling I lacked for most of the last one. I am now very invested in seeing how Abisina continues to mature as she gains more responsibilities and takes on a greater role in overseeing her new home. Will she be able to work out a new, beneficial peace between Vranlyn and the rest of Vrania? Will she ever be able to return to Watersmeet?
Fantasy fans will find a lot to like in The Centaur’s Daughter – mythical beings, romance, drama, and a strong, relatable female lead.
Review copy provided by publisher
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