The Scorpio Races
by Maggie Stiefvater
Original Publication Date: October 2011
Length: 404 pages
Obtained Via: I received a copy of this book from ARCycling
Format Read In: Advanced Reader’s Copy
View at the Traffic light:
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.
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.
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.