Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

the scorpio races
Title: The Scorpio Races
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Pages: 409
Genre: YA Fantasy/Mythology
Published: October 18, 2011

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Quick Synopsis: 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)

My Review:  After reading and loving the three books that are currently out in The Raven Cycle, I knew I had to read more Maggie, especially after the just okay books I recently finished (Into the Still Blue and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl). It’s now safe for me to say that Maggie Stiefvater is my new favorite YA author. I know. That’s a huge statement considering I have yet to read her ever popular Wolves of Mercy Falls series, but that’s how much her other novels have affected me. I’m sorry if you’re sick of hearing about her work, but I don’t think I’ll be shutting up any time soon.

The Scorpio Races‘s brilliance sneaked up on me. Meaning, I recognized it was a good story while reading it, but it was only after I finished that I recognized how good. This realization dawned on me as I thought about the novel as a whole and the different emotions it left me feeling. It had all of the same great elements that The Raven Cycle had – a unique plot, fleshed out characters, a magical setting, and beautiful writing – but it was so different from anything else I’ve read. I’m no fan of horse books (or movies, for that matter), but these horses are different in every way possible. Capaill uisce, they’re called. Or, water horses. These horses come from the Celtic legend, and that’s where the mythology comes in. Capaill uisce are dangerous and, in this story, have killed many people who got too close, including the protagonists’ parent(s). But every November, the Scorpio Races are held, and people ride these horses in hopes of winning money and the respect of the people that make up the small, fictional island of Thisby where everybody knows everybody.

Kate Connolly, nicknamed Puck, is the main female protagonist and has no intention of racing until it becomes a necessity. Sean Kendrick, the male protagonist, has won the last four races and is considered the island’s horse whisperer. Of all the people on the island, he can handle the capaill uisce better than anyone. He has created a special bond with one in particular named Corr, and he races so that he can finally buy Corr for his own. When Puck and Sean’s story-lines come together, they become training partners and unlikely friends (and more!) in the wake of the race.

These two characters, and every other character in the novel, are written extremely well. I feel like I’m always praising Maggie’s characters and their different relationships, but really, that’s where her strength lies. There is very little romance, but what we do get is magical. It’s believable. It’s some of the best in YA. How Maggie does that is beyond me, but I love it. And, surprisingly, the most touching relationship was between Sean and Corr. I say surprisingly because I am never usually moved by relationships or stories revolving around a person and an animal (I know, I must be insensitive). This was different though. I saw someone write in their Goodreads review of this novel, “The Scorpio Races isn’t a love story. It’s a survival story. The only love triangle here is between a capall, his rider, and the ocean — and it’s beautiful and heartbreaking.” I one hundred percent couldn’t agree more with that statement. Sean’s love for Corr and Puck’s love for Dove was powerful.

As for the pacing, Maggie is notorious for having slow beginnings. Personally, I’m never bothered by this because I am fine as long as the characters are interesting (they were), but it may be a turn off for some. However, the story does pick up at some point and when it does, there’s no turning back or stopping. I read the whole second half of the book in one sitting because I needed to know what would happen next, and when it was over I was sad to see it end. The ending is perfect though, and the last line totally made me tear up.

You guys know I love Maggie’s writing, so I won’t linger on that aspect of the book. But I will say that this novel in particular had some amazing imagery. I saw every description of this book so vividly in my mind, particularly the very Celtic, mythic world. They made me both long to be in this world and fear it because of its danger. There were also certain lines and passages that left me envious because of how beautifully written they were. Maggie’s words flow like nothing else.

Here is one passage, said by Sean to Puck, that I love in particular because of the way it encompasses the feel of the world and the races so nicely.

“What it’s like is a battle. A mess of horses and men and blood. The fastest and strongest of what is left from two weeks of preparation on the sand. It’s the surf in your face, the deadly magic of November on your skin, the Scorpio drums in the place of your heartbeat. It’s speed, if you’re lucky. It’s life and it’s death or it’s both and there’s nothing like it. Once upon a time, this moment — this last light of evening the day before the race — was the best moment of the year for me. The anticipation of the game to come. But that was when all I had to lose was my life.”

*siiiiggghhhh* This book is dark and hopeful and lovely all at once. It’s about discovering what’s important and what will bring you happiness. It’s about overcoming great odds and fighting for yourself and the ones you love. It’s about sacrifice. It’s about gaining respect. And it’s about the bonds between the characters and their horses. I cannot recommend this book enough, and you’ll definitely see it on my ‘”favorites of the year” list when that time comes.

Maggie, you’ve done it again.

Sidenote: Apparently this is becoming a movie? If done well, this novel would make a fantastic movie, so I’m going to remain hopefully optimistic! Can’t wait to see developments on that!

My Rating:

5 stars

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I was going to do a June wrap-up post, but I only read 4 books over the month, including this one. And after this goes live, I’ll have reviews for 3 of the 4 books, so I didn’t really see a point of making a wrap-up just to talk about the one book I didn’t do a review for which was A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin. Just know I gave it a 5/5 stars and really enjoyed it. I’ll be moving on to book #3, A Storm of Swords, very soon, I hope. If you want to read my reviews of the other two books, Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews, click on the titles!

That’s it for now! Let me know if you’ve read The Scorpio Races and what your thoughts are on it!

Until next time, keep reading and writing! – Veronica

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