Title: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Published: October 18th, 2011 by Scholastic
Format: Audio book narrated by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham
Group age: Young adult
Genre: Paranormal / Romance
Challenge: TBR Pile
Grade rate: A
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.
Once upon a time, back in 2011, I went to my first book signing. I had just stared my blog and I was beyond excited to meet Maggie Stiefvater. I love her Wolves of Mercy Falls series and the signing was for Forever, the last book in the series. Maggie talked about her next book, The Scorpio Races, and as any good fan would do, I purchased it right away. Sadly, it sat on my shelf unread for a couple of years. A few months ago I decided to purchase it in audio book, and the rest as they say, is history.
There are many reasons why I love Maggie’s writing and this couldn’t be truer in The Scorpio Races. All the elements of an imaginative plot, world building, outstanding writing and amazing characters are all here. It was magical to listen to these talented actors read the book. It took me a bit to get used to their accents, but it was so worth it.
This story is the story of the unique and unforgiving island of Thisby where killer horses named capaill uisce (pronounced something like ‘capal ishka’) come out of the water every year around the month of October to hunt. This is the time where the men in the island try to catch the capaill uisce and ‘train’ them to race in the Scorpio Races, for a chance to glory and, of course, money. People come from all over to see the races, to bet, and to buy horses.
Our protagonists are Sean Kendrick and Kate ‘Puck’ Connolly. Sean is an orphan that was raised to love horses. He has a natural understanding for both land and water horses and he works as a trainer for Benjamin Malvern, the richest man in Thisby. Sean is a man of few words, he has an imposing presence and he is respected by all. Sean and his capill Corr, have won the races four times before and are getting ready to do it again.
Kate is also an orphan, having lost both her parents a year prior. She has two brothers, Gabe and Finn, and they are having a really tough time with surviving. Kate is so funny! Her mind is an amusing place to be indeed, luckily most of the time she thinks before she talks. Kate is very loyal to her family and the few people she considers friends, but in her mind it’s always the Connolly’s against the world. This world comes crashing down when her brother Gabe announces he is leaving the island, a desperate Kate enters the races to make a point and to keep him in the island a little bit longer.
Sean and Kate are different, but they have some things important in common, their love of horses and their love for the island they call home. This is not a flashy, instant or passionate love story, nonetheless, it is a sweet romance between two people that respect and understand each other. Do I wish for more time with Kate and Sean? Absolutely, but I trust that their lives will be better now.
Our villain is Mutt Malvern, the son of Sean’s boss and an awful human being that takes pleasure in tormenting Sean at all costs. The hatred between these two is mutual and palpable. Other characters are minor, but add a lot to the story, especially Mr. Holly who seems to act as Sean’s conscience and mentor.
The world building is exquisite. There is a lot of description of the cliffs, the beach, the horses, and so on. This world comes alive under Maggie’s pen and it’s one of the main characters. The crown jewel of the story is the writing. It is lyrical, almost like reading poetry, full of simile and metaphors.
The Scorpio Races is a truly beautifully written book, ideal for the romantic at heart, but with a strong stomach (after all they are killer horses). The only thing left is for me to back some November cakes (I will too!)
Here are some quotes for you:
“I think of Sean folded low over the red stallion, riding bareback at the top of the cliffs. Of the easy way they had with each other when I met him to look at the uisce mare. I think, even, of the way Sean looked when he stood on the bloody festival rock and said his name, and then Corr's, like it was just one fact after the other. Of the way he said "the sky and the sand and the sea and Corr" to me. And I feel a bite of unfairness, because in everything but name, it seems to me that Sean Kendrick already owns Corr.”
“I say, 'I will not be your weakness, Sean Kendrick.'
Now he looks at me. He says, very softly, 'It's late for that, Puck.”
“In the middle of all this, as Sean slips out of his jacket, he looks over his shoulder at me and he smiles at me, just a glancing, faint thing before he turns back to Tommy.
I'm quite happy for that smile, because Dad told me once you should be grateful for the gifts that are the rarest.”
“Happiness isn't something this island yields easily; the ground is too rocky and the sun too sparse for it to flourish.”
About the cover: I love the rusted red color- the color of blood. Puck is riding on Dove near the water; they both seem so free and fast. The brass color font of the title is a nice contrast.