Trust – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

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Tabitha Darling

An unlikely fusion of mythic fantasy creatures and modern humans, Trust, by Tabitha Darling, explores the relationship between a stranded centaur from a different planet and the human woman he kidnaps to nurse the newborn in his care. Together, they overcome language barriers, child-rearing, and the terror of an uncertain future, while all along learning to trust and care for one another. The first novel in the Children of Chiron series, Trust introduces readers to a new perspective on modern fantasy.

Trust begins in a centaur village with a rapid series of events that culminate in a magical teleportation to Earth. While the concept is clear, the series of events in the first several pages is not. It can be quite difficult for readers to keep track of characters and actions on top of all the unfamiliar world-building aspects of the scenes. There is extreme urgency to the situation, but the reasons why are difficult to pick out. Without any sort of anchoring expositional information, the quick pace of the dialogue and action could possibly turn readers off the story entirely, despite any course correction the story takes later. Along the same vein, the descriptions for action moments and movement in general could use quite a lot of expansion. The action is very frank, and as a result, uninformative. Poor action description can lead to misunderstanding of the whole scene. For instance, the moment Brenda and Ieang are forced to abandon Tejat is a pivotal moment, but even after several read throughs, it is a confusing moment.

Darling’s decision to write most of Trust through Ieang’s perspective is an ambitious one. The entire experience on Earth is a practice in defamiliarization. Because Ieang does not know what things are or how to describe them, readers are forced to pick up every clue as if it’s a mystery game, providing a steady-yet-mellow layer of tension throughout the whole story. On an entirely different note, the sheer creativity that comes with Darling’s reimagining of mythology and centaurs is commendable. Though the reader does not yet know how the centaurs’ faith and gods relate to what is understood on Earth, the few connections given are exciting and promising for future novels. While Trust is just the first of several novels, the story itself can stand alone as a quest or adventure narrative for both main characters, the unknown elements simply leave the reader waiting and wanting for the next installment in the series.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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