I was granted eARC access to The Centaur’s Wife via NetGalley, and unfortunately, I wasn’t quite able to get my review out before publication day, but better late than never, right? We’re still within the first week. We’ve still got time to send people rushing to purchase in time for the bestseller lists! But in all seriousness, thank you to all involved in granting me this complimentary copy. My thoughts are my own and my review is honest.
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About the Book
The Centaur’s Wife
by Amanda Leduc
Published 16 February 2021
Random House Canada
Genre: Magical Realism
Page Count: 320
Add it to your Goodreads TBR!
Amanda Leduc’s brilliant new novel, woven with fairy tales of her own devising and replete with both catastrophe and magic, is a vision of what happens when we ignore the natural world and the darker parts of our own natures.
Heather is sleeping peacefully after the birth of her twin daughters when the sound of the world ending jolts her awake. Stumbling outside with her babies and her new husband, Brendan, she finds that their city has been destroyed by falling meteors and that her little family are among only a few who survived.
But the mountain that looms over the city is still green–somehow it has been spared the destruction that has brought humanity to the brink of extinction. Heather is one of the few who know the mountain, a place city-dwellers have always been forbidden to go. Her dad took her up the mountain when she was a child on a misguided quest to heal her legs, damaged at birth. The tragedy that resulted has shaped her life, bringing her both great sorrow and an undying connection to the deep magic of the mountain, made real by the beings she and her dad encountered that day: Estajfan, a centaur born of sorrow and of an ancient, impossible love, and his two siblings, marooned between the magical and the human world. Even as those in the city around her–led by Tasha, a charismatic doctor who fled to the city from the coast with her wife and other refugees–struggle to keep everyone alive, Heather constantly looks to the mountain, drawn by love, by fear, by the desire for rescue. She is torn in two by her awareness of what unleashed the meteor shower and what is coming for the few survivors, once the green and living earth makes a final reckoning of the usefulness of human life and finds it wanting.
At times devastating, but ultimately redemptive, Amanda Leduc’s fable for our uncertain times reminds us that the most important things in life aren’t things at all, but rather the people we want by our side at the end of the world.
My Rating: 4 Stars
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The Centaur’s Wife is a whimsical, brutal, dark, heartbreaking, and uplifting blend of storylines that take us from the creation of centaurs to the end of the modern world as we know it. Every piece of the story is full of sadness and joy, love and loss, and somehow most of it winds together to leave us in a cautiously hopeful mindset by the end of the book.
Representation: Visible disabilities (Cerebral Palsy, Cystic Fibrosis), invisible disabilities (depression, anxiety), LGBTQIA relationships, racial/visible minorities
Content warnings: Surgery while awake, pregnancy and infant loss, loss of a parent, disability-focused bullying, firearm violence, suicide, threat of starvation
This is an apocalypse story tied together with fairytales that happen to be true. It’s the story of those who survive the end of the world, how the world continues to try to destroy them, and what it takes to keep going. We meet people who are willing to band together and help one another and people who aren’t. These people face fear, dwindling supplies from before the event, and the new threat of nature that is literally trying to snuff them out. (Vines that move at a visible rate to reclaim anything and everything, soil that will not produce crops, etc.) Only those who join up together, pool resources and efforts, and lift each other up emotionally are able to survive the first year.
To describe this book as weird would definitely be fair, but not weird in a bad way. It feels experimental, it takes processing, and it probably needs to be read more than once. It’s a beautiful blend of science fantasy with magical realism and apocalypse fiction, told from a variety of points of view, and it doesn’t care for such constraints as linear time. This book jumps around a lot and this does mean some may find it too confusing to finish, but think those who do will come out the other end having gained something. Gained what? I’m not sure. It feels like it’ll be different for everyone.
This is definitely going to be one of those cult following books with a loud fan base who force it on everyone else. Not everyone will like it. Not everyone will get it. Those who do will probably not stop trying to convince everyone who doesn’t. In that way, it reminds me of The Night Circus or Piranesi. Those who love it, LOVE it. Those who don’t get it don’t understand what the fuss is about.
I honestly don’t know who to recommend this to, specifically. It isn’t quite like anything I’ve ever read before, other than having that same sense of “not every reader is going to get it” that the books I mentioned above have. Perhaps I’ll start there? I would highly recommend this to fans of Erin Morgenstern, or of Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi. I would also recommend it more broadly to fans of magical realism who don’t mind twisty, turny plots and multiple POVs, and to people who liked the concept of gritty end of the world stories like Dies the Fire by S.M. Sterling but want something a little less in-your-face real.
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