Title: The Scorpio Races

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Publisher: Scholastic Press US/ UK
Publication date: October 2011
Hardcover/Paperback: 404 pages

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.

Stand alone or series: Stand alone (HOORAY)

How did I get this book: I got a review copy at BEA

Why did I read this book: Killer seahorses. Seriously.

Review:

All cards on the table: I have always been on the fence when it comes to Maggie Stiefvater’s books. I read Lament and tried to read Shiver but didn’t like either book. I was irritated by the characters, by their lack of logical development and above all by the no-holds barred, insta-love/obsessive – type of romance story that drove those stories. However, I have always been able to appreciate this author’s beautiful prose (despite a certain tendency for that kind of exaggerated tone, on the brink of purple territory). Because of that, I felt that there was definitely potential for greatness somewhere in those stories which went largely untapped and frustrated me to no end but also made me want to give The Scorpio Races a chance (also: killer seahorses).

And I am delighted that I did. The Scorpio Races is an utterly different book from Lament and Shiver and I loved it. The writing is as beautiful and lyrical as it can be without verging on purple prose. The characters, and who they are, drive the story and although there is an element of romance it is not intense or heavy-handed at all. It is the kind of romance that I tend to love the most: subtle, slow-burning, of that kind that evolves from getting to know each other well, from friendship to the possibility of something else.

But I am ahead of myself. Where was I? Oh yes:

Killer seahorses.

On the tiny island of Thisby, in the middle of nowhere, at an undisclosed time, every November sees the Scorpio Races, every November ends in death and blood. The horses emerge from the sea, dangerous and deadly and are greeted by the inhabitants of Thisby with both dread and excitement. The Scorpio Races have been happening since anyone can remember, and the islanders can only survive economically because of that. Most of them try to race and to be famous and rich. A lot of those die.

Sean Kendrick is the reigning champion and the only one who seems to be able to control the horses. He is a young man with a passion for the sea and for the seahorse Corr – a horse that is owned by Sean’s employer but who really belongs to Sean. This November will see Sean racing for his life, for his future and for Corr.

Puck Connolly wants nothing to do with the races or the seahorses for they killed her parents leaving her and her brothers Finn and Gabe on their own. Then one day Gabe says he is leaving Thisby and on a whim, moved by the need to have him staying for at least a bit longer, Puck does the unthinkable: she joins the races. She is the first girl to ever do so and she will race with her regular, normal beloved horse, seahorses be damned. This November will see Puck racing for her brother, for her home and for herself.

The chapters more or less alternate between the two characters, and the story follows their progress with the horses and the training for the race. The race and the seahorses are an awesomely cool concept (inspired by Irish and Scottish mythologies) that are appropriately explored by the author with a fabulous imagery (like for example, when the seahorses rose from the sea), a sense of danger that never lets go and a somewhat vague world-building that absolutely fits the timeless, beautiful atmosphere of the story.

Having said that, The Scorpio Races is not really about the seahorses or about the races at all. It is about the people that run on the races and about the island that depends on them. The characters and their motivations drive the story forward and what a story this is. It is about sibling love, impossible friendships, death, despair, jealousy and absurd hope. The horses might be killers rising from the sea like the worst possible nightmare out to get people but some humans are worse. The races might be deadly but staying put where you don’t want to be might be equally devastating.

Puck’s arc was probably my favourite. Her joining the race was so obviously a childish thing to do, a mindless reaction to her brother’s impending departure. But she later decides to stay for a myriad of reasons. This prompts her growth in a proper coming of age story: from realising she looks like her mother, from paying attention to what she wears to fighting to stay on the races despite everybody wanting her not to (and there is definitely an element of feminism in her pursuit of her right to race). And I loved her relationship with her bothers and her love for her horse and for the island.

Then of course, there is the relationship between Sean and Puck which starts off as uneasy acquaintance, to grudging alliance to something more. The something more is never, ever worded except for small bits of delightful conversation (sometimes not even between the two of them).They share a tragic past, a love for the horses but above all their share the fact that both are passionate for things that other people simply don’t get: Sean loves the seahorses, deadly as they are. Puck loves the island, small as it is.

This is truly a beautiful book, the type that remains long after the pages are closed, timeless just like the story within.

Notable Quotes/ Parts:

I think that’s a mercy of this island, actually, that it won’t give us our terrible memories for long, but let us keep the good ones for as long as we want them.

Rating: 8- Excellent and leaning toward 9

Reading Next: First Day on Earth by Cecil Castellucci

Buy the Book:

Ebook available for kindle US, nook, google and sony

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26 Responses to Book Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

  1. Chachic says:

    Look at that, another positive review! Angie and Holly have already convinced me to read this one as soon as I can and it’s good to know that you liked it as well, Ana. :)

  2. Allison says:

    I didn’t like Maggie’s other books either, and wasn’t really planning on reading it – and just like Chachic, it was Holly and Angie’s reviews that changed my mind. I finished it a couple of days ago and am still mourning the loss. Really really brilliant. Glad to know you felt the same!

  3. Bell says:

    I’ve always felt the same way about Stiefvater’s books and I was just going to ignore this one…but your review has me very interested. Maybe time to give her another chance.

  4. Kim says:

    I finished this book last night and it has stayed with me throughout the day. I loved it. I am a fan of Maggie’s work. She had me with Lament. But this is her best, by far. And though I would have loved more of Sean and Puck, the ending satisfied (along with a good cry).

  5. Megan no h says:

    AHHHHH that’s it! I HAVE to read this. I wasn’t a fan of Shiver, but everyone is going wild for this one and I NEED TO READ IT NOW. It sounds so gooood.

  6. I’ve never read Stiefvater, but I think you sold me on killer seahorses.

  7. I have so much love for Maggie’s books. The situations she puts her characters into sometimes make me forget to breathe until I find out if everyone makes it out all right.

    EXCELLENT review!

    Smiles!
    Lori

  8. Eve says:

    Okay I have to say I love all her books. I can’t normally do a bunch of the blinding/obsessive love but Shiver got to me. But yes I do agree that that series and The Scorpio Races are very different. I loved it so much it was so hard to put the book down and I was sad when it ended because I wanted more. I enjoyed your review almost as much as the book.

  9. Holly says:

    Oh *YAY* you loved it! Ah, the “delightful conversation”. I enjoyed the wordless stuff as well but those few lines slayed me. SO GOOD.

  10. Thanks for the review – I read Shiver and wasn’t that interested either so I haven’t really bothered to pick this up. I might well pick it up now ;)

  11. Ana says:

    Thanks for all the comments guys! I hope those who haven’t read this yet love it as much as I did!

    I am finding really interesting to see so many who didn’t like Shiver either, I thought that book was universally loved and I was the odd one out. Glad to hear I am not alone :mrgreen:

  12. Christine says:

    I was waiting for one of you to review this one before I decided to read it, although in all fairness, it already had a vote from Angie, so it was already on my list.. :wink:

    How nice to see it is a stand alone novel! I admit I’m a series junkie, but there is some sense of relief to know there’s just one!

  13. Heidi says:

    Thanks Ana! Like so many others here I was very much in the ‘meh’ camp when I saw this book. I haven’t been a huge fan in the past, and the blurb didn’t do much for me. I was resisting despite the hype, but with this excellent review I’m swayed to give it a shot!

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  15. Nathalie says:

    Thank you for the great review! I’ve been a fan of Maggie’s for quite some time, but I also think she’s grown a lot in her writing since Shiver. I’m looking forward to reading this one (especially after reading what you wrote).. Thanks again!

  16. Penny says:

    Great review. I’m a huge horse fan and loved the Hunger Games so this seemed like a good bet and it was fabulous. I haven’t read a book that haunted me so much since Beagle’s ‘The Last Unicorn.’

  17. Anonymous says:

    I can’t wait to read this! 8)8)8)8)8)8)8)8)

  18. [...] Chachic’s Book Nook – “One of my favorite books read this year” The Book Smugglers –  8- Excellent and leaning toward 9 Escape In a Book – 4 (out of 5) Jane of All Reads [...]

  19. Tammy says:

    I just finished this book and I loved it! I, too, have a book blog (although not as fabulous as yours) and I have put a link to your site on my blog! Hope you can check it out and follow me! :)

    Happy Reading!

    http://tammy-for-the-love-of-reading.blogspot.com/2012/02/scorpio-races-by-maggie-stiefvater.html

  20. I’m very very excited to read this book. People are talking wonderful things about it. Soon it will come to Brazil ( where I am from )so I think I can wait and not buy it in english. This horses mythology seems to be very intersting too.

    Nice review :)

  21. I’m so glad I read your review and decided to pick up this book from the library. I loved it! I agree with your assessment of Puck, her character development and story arc in this narrative was delightful and rang true.

  22. [...] you don’t believe me, you can read the review that piqued my interest here. Share this:MoreLike this:LikeBe the first to like this [...]

  23. Diane says:

    First of all, I loved the book and it is the first time I have read the author! Secondly, I have had trouble discerning the reason for the annual race (not clear in the book) and is it “simply” a race along the beach hoping that the seahorses don’t reach out a grab the participants? I never thought I was all that literal but maybe I am. Anyone else in my prediciment?

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