Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Published: October 18, 2011
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Rating: 5 stars
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“I hear laughter and someone asks if I need help, not in a nice way. I snarl, "What I need is for your mother to have thought a little harder nine months before your birthday.”My Thoughts
―Maggie Stiefvater, The Scorpio Races
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.
At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.
Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen. (Goodreads)
The Scorpio Races, you had me at water horses. At first, I was wary of this book because I was not a huge fan of Stiefvater's Shiver. But I enjoyed The Scorpio Races so much more, and I have no regrets. This book wasn't what I was expecting. I thought it would be action-packed with not a slow moment in between horse races and near death experiences, but it was far from action filled. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing because I think I loved it more this way despite the slowness. In the beginning, the story eases into itself, almost as if it is slowly creeping up on you like a capaill uisce rising out of the water to come onto shore. It was a little slow starting off, but I loved how quiet the story could be. Instead of deadly battles, most of the book had a painful poignancy, as if it was plucking your heartstrings. Violent death was a natural part of life in Thisby where many met their deaths by the capaill uisce, making life on the island all the more horrific. People willingly signed up for the races despite the predatory nature of the water horses and the call of the sea to these creatures, meaning they could easily be drowned by their rides or killed by their sharp teeth. Yet the races were the life and blood of the island.
In The Scorpio Races, the setting is almost a character itself. The reader comes to love Thisby as much as Puck and Sean, finding it horrifying at the same time as it is unnaturally beautiful with its precariously high cliffs and rocky shores, its strange islanders, winding alleys, and family run stores. The sea is also present as another character and a constant temptation to not only the water horses but to the islanders who want to cross it to the mainland and the other islanders who feel they are a part of both sea and land. Stiefvater created an island unto itself, part of the real world but so far from reality, it adopts a dreamlike, unnatural quality. And when the tourists and mainlanders visit the island for the festivities, it is then you see how truly different the islanders are, almost as if they are a wilder, forgotten race.
Puck and Sean were both endlessly fascinating, and I couldn't get enough of them. I loved that I was given a glimpse into both of their POVs, revealing so much more and making both of their journeys toward the races meaningful. When a book has two POVs, there is always the danger of one side being less interesting, but this was not the case in The Scorpio Races. Puck was such a spitfire, and I loved her smart remarks and her determination to compete in the races despite her fear. She was a strong individual, being there for her sweet, eccentric younger brother Finn while also taking all responsibility when her older brother Gabe couldn't handle it anymore. She was so in love with the island, even though her parents were killed by the capaill uisce. Sean was also a favorite character of mine. I loved that he was an old soul for a nineteen year old, and this made sense, seeing as he had suffered many hardships. I'm a big animal lover, and I loved how Sean connected with the horses he worked with more than he did with humans. Unfortunately, I sometimes feel that way in regard to my pets, and I really sympathized with Sean's concern for the horses. They were almost an extension of himself, especially Corr, and he loved them deeply. Both Puck and Sean seemed to have a wilder side, and I could almost imagine them as a part of the island, as they were so strongly attached to it. Their romance was not a main focus, but I didn't think it should be, and it was very sweet and touching.
I have to congratulate Stiefvater for imagining such a wild, unique premise. The Scorpio Races was so creative and unlike anything I'd read before. The only thing I could compare it to is Tamsin, a fantastic book that brings folklore to life in the English countryside. The capaill uisce emerged straight out of myth, and I could not help loving them as much as I feared them. I loved their unpredictability, and their free, wild nature. At times they were terrifying, and I almost shivered imagining their keening wail.
The Scorpio Races was a haunting, phenomenal read. I only regret waiting so long to read it. I love that it is a standalone book because I don't think I can take many more series. I only wish we would've been given more history behind the island and the appearance of the water horses, but maybe that just contributes to these creatures' mysterious nature. This has become a new favorite, and I encourage all fantasy lovers to read it!