Book Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Posted March 5, 2014 by Stormy in Books / 13 Comments

The Scorpio Races

by Maggie Stiefvater

the scorpio races

Original Publication Date: October 2011
Length: 404 pages
Publisher: Scholastic

Obtained Via: I received a copy of this book from ARCycling
Format Read In: Advanced Reader’s Copy
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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.

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 After my experience with Shiver, I was hesitant about picking up The Scorpio Races, but several people told me, based upon my Shiver review, that they were quite certain I would like this one for the gorgeous prose and beautiful story. Those people were right. Despite the slow pace of The Scorpio Races, I was captivated from the start. The book starts with dangerous water horses on a beach and a deadly race, and from that moment I was swept off my feet.

The island of Thisby is different from most places, for a few reasons, but the most startling being the fact that every year, dangerous water horses crawl up from the sea. They’re often horses in name only–they’re wild and often lethal, but the inhabitants of Thisby are fascinated by them. In fact, they’re so fascinated that every year, they often captured several and race them all on the first day of November. The winning rider of the race gets a grand prize(as do only participants who place), but that large sum of money is only worth it if they survive.

One noticeable thing about the titular races is how normal they are for the island. People are sad and disquieted when racers die or get gravely injured, but since everyone signs as a willing participant, the racers know what they are getting into. This presented such an interesting dissonance for me. I feel like I should hate the races, that they’re so dangerous and not worth it, but as the inhabitants of Thisby love the races, I found myself coming to enjoy them as well despite my better judgement. It’s such an important part of the island, and the island is such an important part of the story.

I was unaware that this novel was told in a split point of view before reading it, but as soon as I discovered that I grew weary. One of my biggest complaints with Shiver was that the point of views were virtually indistinguishable. I’m happy to say that Stiefvater improved wonderfully in this narrative device and while the two characters did share certain similarities, I didn’t struggle with the same confusion this time.

Both Puck and Sean are fantastic main characters, though it did take me longer to warm up to Puck. I think we all know someone like Sean Kendrick. He speaks so little and keeps everything hidden, but you know there’s so much emotion and a deep character hidden just below the surface. The kind of person who has a routine but then, just every so often, does something completely out of the ordinary. He’s unique in a very realistic way.

Which brings us to Puck. Sean loves the races, and loves his horse–yes, even being the dangerous water horse that it is. Puck is a little more complicated to figure out. She first signs up for the race because it’s a way to get her older brother to stay on the island for a few more weeks, and a way to get some money for her and her brothers, as they are now orphans. As the book goes on, though, it’s clear that there’s a deeper reason than just that. So many people within the book have opinions on Puck. She’s the first girl to ever be in the races, and some people want to create her as some hero. Others don’t want a woman on the beach, which leaves just Puck, trying to figure things out. She’s not feisty or particularly knowledgeable about the races(other than what everyone else knows), but she’s determined. And her determination makes me root for her, even when I wasn’t sure if I should be rooting for her.

I originally gave The Scorpio Races 5 stars, and while I did love the story, I also realized I had a few things that lessened my enjoyment. First, I’m still a bit confused on Puck’s family dynamics. Her parents were killed by one of the water horses before the story began, and so along with her two brothers, she struggles to make ends meet. I wanted to know more about how the family got into this situation–was there no money set aside? It’s told at the beginning of the book that the Connollys are a well-known family on the island, so I would expect a little of something, or at least acknowledgement. I also needed a little more insight into Gabe to really buy his character. These weren’t major complaints, but they were enough to make me less satisfied with the book as a whole.

On a final note, the ending was perfection. Everything that needed to happen to Sean and Puck did. They both grew as characters over the course of the novel and learned how to depend on someone, which isn’t something that seemed to come naturally to either of them. The way they related to each other and their individual horses was perfect and the book explored it in a way that made it so intriguing.

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I really loved this book, besides a few minor things. I got so heavily invested in the characters that I never wanted it to end, despite the fairly slow pace and the fact this one was already a little on the long side. I would take several more pages about water horses and these two main characters. 4/5 cupcakes.

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4 Stars

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13 responses to “Book Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

  1. Yes yes yesssss. I was so afraid as well because I didn’t like Shiver but this was SO different. It was almost like a totally different author. I loved this story and how it was sort of fantasy mixed with reality. LOVED Sean & Puck and really so many of the characters just made it magical. If you ever want to re-read you MUST listen to the audio. It’s amazing! 🙂

    • Stormy

      I know! It did read totally different. Still the same sort of atmospheric quality to the writing but MUCH better and much more engaging! You’re like the third person to mention the audiobook in the comments so I’ve taken notes!

  2. Cait

    I absolutely adore this book! I think it’s my favourite of Maggie Stiefvater’s (but I looooove everything she writes….adore it. Even Shiver, though it kind of lacked, um, plot). XD I LOVE Puck and Sean, can’t even choose a favourite. Oh, but that reminds me, when I first read it, I didn’t know it was going to be split narration. I couldn’t understand whey they were calling Sean “Puck”. I’m like, “What kind of a weird nick-name is that?” >.< Yes, duh moment. I figured it out pretty quick though, lol.

    • Stormy

      I totally get it. Even though I didn’t enjoy Shiver, I thought the writing was really lovely. I just love the way she writes, so I’m sure I’ll like the Raven Boys too.
      Haha, I had the same experience! I thought Sean & Puck were the same person for like the first chapter and a half. I think that was on me, though–there voices were distinct enough.

  3. Kelly

    So so happy that you liked this one! I was completely swept away by the dangerous excitement of the water horses, and this romantic notion that Puck could save everything if she just won the race, against all odds. I loved how the island was it’s own character, and the slower pacing was perfect for this kind of story. I really just want to re-read it now! Haha

    • Stormy

      The water horses were amazing! They were terrifying but also really cool. I think it’s the type of story that would hold up to a re-read really well!

  4. Quinn’s comment makes me curious about the audiobook! I enjoyed this book but didn’t totally 5-star love it for a few reasons, largely due to pacing. I think you pointed out some great things about the story and the characters, and since it’s been several months since I’ve read it, it was a nice reminder!

    • Stormy

      The pacing *was* a little slow. I LOVED Sean & Puck though! I’ve heard the audiobook is fantastic, so if I re-read it(which I probably will eventually) I’ll probably do it via audiobook.

  5. I didn’t enjoy this book as much as you did, but we did most of the same things. I had a real soft spot for the characters, especially Sean. Puck’s family dynamic was also something that confused me. Yes, did her family have no money set aside in case something happened to her parents? I mean, Thisby seems like a pretty dangerous place when the water horses are about, so I wonder if they just weren’t aware enough to take precautions.

    • Stormy

      Yeah, I would have been on board a little earlier in Puck’s family was addressed better. I was just so confused about how her parents didn’t seen to have precautions in place. But I really loved it by the end. I just wished that had been explained better!

  6. I listened to The Scorpio Races, and oh my gosh, it was amazing. There were two narrators, one for Sean Kendrick, and one for Puck. And the narrator for Sean had the dreamiest voice ever. Seriously. Even if audiobooks aren’t your think, see if you can find a sample of Steve West narrating this book, because you will fall in love.

    I also found the ending perfect. It took me a little bit to warm up to Puck as well, but I did, and I loved her relationship with her younger brother. And her older brother, too, but it took me even longer to like him.

    But Sean – he is totally the kind of guy I fall for. He’s so capable, and calm, and – totally dreamy 🙂

    • Stormy

      I’ve heard that about the audiobook! Whenever I re-read(which I’m sure I will at some point), I’ll have to try the audio, because I’ve heard nothing but fantastic things. By the end, I was SO invested in the end result of the characters. I definitely happy-sighed at times.

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