The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater / ★★★★☆
Summary: On the island of Thisby, every November riders compete in the Scorpio Races, a deadly race on man-eating water horses. Sean Kendrick, a man bound to another man’s business and whose own father was killed in the races, is the returning champion. Puck Connolly enters in a desperate attempt to keep her brother from leaving- and volunteers on her land horse.
This time of year, I live and breathe the beach. My cheeks feel raw with the wind throwing sand against them. My thighs sting from the friction of the saddle. My arms ache from holding up two thousand pounds of horse. I have forgotten what it is like to be warm and what a full night’s sleep feels like and what my name sounds like spoken instead of shouted across yards of sand.
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
The Scorpio Races drew me in with exactly what I love about Maggie Stiefvater’s stories- rich atmosphere, flawed but lovable characters, and a weird plot. The atmosphere grabbed me first; it’s dreary and wet and misty and fallish- so much so that when I started this book this previous summer, I had to put it down and wait to read it in the fall. It worked out pretty well, as I ended up reading it during the literal days of October and November during which it was set.
The actual plot drew me in a bit more slowly, but surrounded by an atmosphere and characters that immediately pulled me in, it wasn’t hard to grow invested -especially since a plot containing carnivorous horses from the ocean is not something I come across often. But it was the characters that really drove the plot for me. Their goals, their motives, their mysteries, all guided by the water horses, the setting, and each other, where what I loved most about this book, and it’s what I believe Maggie Stiefvater does best. I expected this book to be far more of a romance than it was, and I enjoyed that this book didn’t intensely focus on that, but on family relationships and on friendships. I enjoyed the romance for what it was, but I loved how it didn’t take over the novel and was a just natural part a bigger story.
I do think the ending was a bit lackluster. The book spent so much time building up to the end, proposing so many outcomes and possibilities, that when we finally got there, it was all a little too rushed and neat. Because of that, it fell flat. Still, I very much enjoyed this book and don’t hesitate to recommend it, especially as a first book to someone who has not read Maggie Stiefvater before.
The characters are what made me fall in love this novel more than anything else. I loved Puck Connolly and the very messy family dynamic she has with her brothers since the death of her parents the year before the novel is set. Her little brother Finn in particular was sweet and pure and stubborn and is now on my list of favorite Stiefvater characters (which, it must be said, is not a very difficult list to get on). I loved Puck and how she’s so driven by her heart. I loved how motivated and how temperamental she is, though she constantly tries not to let her temper get the better of her (and does not always succeed). Most of all, I loved how she does the best she can with the little she has.
Sean Kendrick, on the other hand, I found a bit more bland. I kept hoping we’d get to go a bit more deeper with him every time, and while I enjoyed when we got to see him vulnerable, I still kind of feel like the book didn’t scratch deeply enough below the surface with him. I didn’t dislike him- he was just a bit too stiff for my tastes.
And kudos to Maggie for an amazing cast of side-characters. She really harvested that small-Island setting with them by giving us so many glimpses and scenes with them, and so many of them had grown tremendously on me by the end of the book.
I love Maggie Stiefvater’s writing. The way she described setting – a fictionalized island very much Ireland-inspired – felt cold, and windy, and damp. The little details she provides to give us a real sense of place and of character are wonderfully done. She had some really exemplary writing in this book, probably some of her best.
Was I satisfied?
Except for the ending that fell a bit short for me, I loved this book. And like any Maggie Stiefvater book I love, I give it all to the characters, fantastic atmosphere, and a very unique plot.