Review: The Centaur’s Wife by Amanda Leduc

Centaur's Wife Cover

Rating: 3 out of 5.

In Amanda Leduc’s novel The Centaur’s Wife, flowers harbour spirits and mountain soil has the power to transform bodies.

After a devastating natural disaster, the city at the foot of the mountain struggles with food shortages, harsh winter, and the inexplicable encroachment of wild vines onto urban territory. Nothing the survivors plant is able to grow, however, and they begin to look with suspicion upon the usual scapegoats in a catastrophe: the leaders and the outcasts.

Newcomer Tasha steps into the leadership role as the only doctor in the community, organising food rations and scouting trips even as others chafe against her rule and accuse her of false promises. In the second role, the outcast, we have Heather, a new mother with cerebral palsy whose history with the mountain and its rumoured magic make her an object of fear and ridicule for some of her neighbours. But Heather is not the sum of their contempt – she is the keystone of the story, a survivor long before the apocalypse, and an unwilling mediator between the two worlds of the book: the desperate city and the ominous magical mountain.

Leduc alternates between the central plot and a series of original fairy tales which function as both backstory and counterpoint. Her fluid, unpretentious style lets the novelty of her genre-blending shine, but this is not always to the book’s advantage. Sometimes the magic makes sense, and sometimes it does not. In the first half of the book, a portal between worlds is mentioned twice, but never explained or (as far as I could tell) used.

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