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Review: Centaur Rising by Jane Yolen

Friday, December 12, 2014

Centaur Rising
Jane Yolen

Genre: MG/YA Urban Fantasy
Paperback: 272 Pages
Publication: October 1, 2014
by Henry Holt and Co.

One night during the Perseid meteor shower, Arianne thinks she sees a shooting star land in the fields surrounding her family’s horse farm. About a year later, one of their horses gives birth to a baby centaur. The family has enough attention already as Arianne’s six-year-old brother was born with birth defects caused by an experimental drug—the last thing they need is more scrutiny. But their clients soon start growing suspicious. Just how long is it possible to keep a secret? And what will happen if the world finds out?


Centaur Rising is unique from other urban fantasy books I've read in that it explores how an isolated incident of magic will be received by the human world. This is definitely the part that I loved most about the book. From seeing the family's initial reactions to how they dealt with keeping this secret to how they deal with peoples' reactions upon learning their secret. (Because you really can't hide a growing centaur boy forever.) Robbie's reaction is especially precious. Having been homeschooled for most of his life because the other kids at school made fun of his appearance (he's a thalidomide baby), he hasn't really had the chance to socialize with other young boys, and the way he takes to Kai, as they decide to name the centaur, is precious. It's also a great reminder that sometimes we should accept gifts / miracles for what they are instead of questioning them.

Another wonderful aspect about the book is that it provides a sketch on how people approach conflict. As more people find out about Kai, more people want to give their opinion on what should be done, providing the breeding grounds for dissension. Even when people seem to be in agreement on the surface, there is a lot of internal conflict as well with everyone struggling with his or her own demons and the adults keeping things from the kids (Arianne is thirteen, Robbie six). This makes it a great book to present to upper MG and younger YA readers because it shows them the different ways that people approach conflict and deal with the problem of keeping a secret. Given the troubles keeping a secret brings Arianne's family, it also raises the question of whether a secret is worth keeping. Is it worth keeping the secret, or would have transparency from the beginning have been better?

Despite the great themes in the book, I did have problems with the narration. I always felt like a future Arianne was relaying events to us. While this is case, the narrative distance made it hard to relate to the characters over the course of the story. Arianne the narrator seems to be so busy telling the story that she misses out on chances to explore her feelings in the moment and show us how it feels to be a part of these events. The dialogue also felt forced and the characters weren't well developed. Mostly, the characters were brought in as needed to make a point and disappeared afterwards until they were needed again. This is a missed opportunity to show us how an unusual event influences people. While we definitely see the community coming together, there definitely could have been more to the process. For example, while Mr. Suss is mentioned, we never really see him appear. I would have also liked to see more exploration of the changes in Joey's mother after she finds out about Kai. It's also problematic that Kai, the one upon whom everyone's attention is focused, never really gets a chance to speak for him. Even when he speaks up at the end, it's truly Arianne who makes the bargain in his place.

Nevertheless, this is definitely a story meant for younger readers. There are great themes for them to explore in this book, and the unique plot may capture their interest. I recommend this for those who enjoy MG/YA books with a magical feel.

An ARC was provided by Macmillan for review

Rating: 2.5 stars

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4 comments on "Review: Centaur Rising by Jane Yolen"
  1. Centaur rising sounds promising and i like Jane Yolen's books so hopefully i can get it soon.

    Great review
    Aparajita @Le' Grande Codex

  2. I have never read a book with a centaur and the magic sounds interesting, this one may be too young for me.

    1. It was definitely on the young side. Arianne's age wasn't mentioned in the synopsis, so it surprised me going into the novel.


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