Thursday, February 2, 2012

Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

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 fa
te 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. (summary from Goodreads)

Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races will enthrall you until the very end!

Every year during the weeks leading up to November, the island Thisby prepares for the arrival of tourists and capaill uisce alike. For the beginning of November is the Scorpio Races, a deadly race of the terrifying and wonderful water horses, the capaill uisce, along the shoreline. There's a lot more at stake then losing during this race - The Scorpio Races guarantees death, both on the day and throughout the training in the weeks leading up to the event. Kate Connolly, known as Puck, has never had anything to do with the water horses, satisfied with her horse and best friend, Dove...that is until last year when a capall uisce killed both her parents. Trying to survive with just herself and her brothers, Finn and Gabe, to rely on, they're only barely scraping by. When Gabe breaks the news that he is leaving the island - alone - Puck has no choice but to sign up for the Scorpio Races. Not only does she need the money winning will provide, she hopes it will force Gabe to stay. Puck is not only the first woman to race, but the first person to not race on a capall uisce, and her chances of survival are slim, let alone her chances of winning. Or so she's told. Stoic reinging champion, Sean Kendrick, is one such person. Sean has an inexplicable connection with all horses, especially the red capall uisce, Corr; drawn to the ocean as much as the water horses themselves. All Sean wants is a place to call his own - and to officially own Corr. Like Puck, he'll do anything to get what he wants. As Puck and Sean get to know each other in the weeks leading up to the race, both will learn when to hold on and when to let go, and what it is they really want...if they survive the race to get it.

I don't know if I have the words to truly capture the magic that is The Scorpio Races. It's been weeks and what I'm writing here still doesn't seem enough. This book is stunning and beautiful, haunting and hopeful, and Stiefvater's characters, her island town, and her capaill uisce will leave a lasting impression. The pacing of The Scorpio Races is a slow build, with the story focusing on the weeks leading up to the races, but before you know it you will be hooked, unable to stop reading. It really is just that compelling, and a lot of it has to do with Stiefvater's world building. It is magnificent, in that her mythology never feels overly fantastical but as if Thisby, the capaill uisce, and the Scorpio Races, are as real as you and me. Don't get me wrong - the capaill uisce are otherworldly, both terrifying and awe inspiring at once, but Stiefvater has also successfully portrayed a sort of commonality to them within her created world, so that while you read you're full of wonder, but also connected to the general everydayness of her characters and their story.

This world is all the more superb because of the quality of Stiefvater's characters. With a focus on finding your place and being your own person, Stiefvater's characters are relatable and emotionally grabbing. Like her Wolves of Mercy Falls series, The Scorpio Races is told through the alternating points of view of Sean and Puck, the two main characters, and both are distinct and resounding voices. I liked them both right away, easily connecting with their story, my heart soaring and plummeting along with their successes and hardships. It's such a wonder, that characters like Stiefvater's, so flawed and broken yet so strong, so simply real and human, are in actuality fictional. It blows me away how she creates such substantial and affecting personalities that jump off the page and burrow inside you. Even secondary characters, like Finn, Gabe, Mutt, Holly, Dora Maud and her sisters, portrayed through the eyes of Puck and Sean, come to life in tangible ways. Certainly her characters are the heart of the story, providing a realistic development and connection within a world both ordinary and extraordinary.

No review of mine of Stiefvater's work would be complete without my gushing praise of her writing style. It's what creates the magic after all, and The Scorpio Races is no different. Each word is a piece to a marvellous and imaginative whole that together create a heartpounding tale - and I do mean that literally! There are moments throughout The Scorpio Races that stole my breath, either through their beauty or their terror, and as the narrative continues the quiet simplicity of island life is further immersed in such moments. By the end my fingers were clenched around the book and I was holding my breath, utterly mesmerised at the intensity of Stiefvater's descriptions. I was ready for so much - Stiefvater's voice gleefully repeating how she likes to devastate her readers in my head - and not prepared at all. I truly loved all of The Scorpio Races and especially the ending - I left it on a sigh, finally releasing the breath that had been welling inside of me all along! To me, it's perfect, and I feel no dissatisfaction at The Scorpio Races being a stand-alone read.

Whether or not you've read previous books by Maggie Stiefvater, The Scorpio Races is not to be missed. I'll never rightly be able to describe the beauty of both it's simplicity and wonderment - it must be experienced!


Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Published date: 18 October 2011
Pages: 404


  1. Excellent review! I will have to get a copy for myself!

    1. Thanks so much! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!!