Genre: Fantasy, Fiction
Book Jacket Synopsis: “Some race to win. Others race to survive. 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 choice. So she enters the competition – the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen. As she did in her bestselling Shiver trilogy, author Maggie Stiefvater takes us to the breaking point, where both love and life meet their greatest obstacles, and only the strong of heart can survive. The Scorpio Races is an unforgettable reading experience.”
Review: Misty of Chincoteague meets fantasy in Stiefvater’s first standalone novel. The Scorpio Races (Stiefvater’s favorite book out of all the ones she has written) excels in so many different ways. It’s what I call a “slow burn” book, in that it doesn’t bash the reader over the head with magic, romance, or suspense. Indeed, at times it seems like the plot is progressing almost too slowly. But the true merit of this book lies in the fact that long after you close it for the night, the story still sticks with you. I really like how the magic and fantasy in The Scorpio Races is subtle, which is no small feat given that the book’s main focus is on the mythical water horse, or capaill uisce (CAPpal ISHka): a carnivorous oceanic horse that emerges from the Scorpio Sea surrounding Thisby (an imaginary, Irish-sounding Atlantic island) each fall. The townspeople await the capaill uisce emergence with no small amount of trepidation. While the more adventurous individuals attempt to capture horses to ride in the annual Scorpio Races, others do their best to protect family, pets, and livestock from the bloodthirsty water horses. Puck Connolly and her brothers, Gabe and Finn, fall into this latter stock of townspeople. After all, it was at the jaws of a water horse that their parents met early deaths. Sean Kendrick falls into the former class. Ever the brooding hero, Sean is a gifted horseman (and, like the Connolly’s, an orphan) with a soft spot for Corr, the capaill uisce he has spent six years training. The Scorpio Races follows Puck and Sean in the weeks leading up to the actual race, as both teenagers set their sights on winning the top prize. A win for Sean means that he may finally be able to buy Corr from Benjamin Malvern (Sean’s employer and the richest man on Thisby), while a win for Puck means that she will be able to pay off the debt that is threatening to force her and her brothers to abandon their family home. Stiefvater’s strengths, as usual, come in the form of excellent character and scenery development. In particular, Thisby itself ends up feeling incredibly real. My primary complaint with the novel is that the pacing does drag at certain points, and the actual race takes up only ten pages of a 404 page book. However, Stiefvater’s characters and setting more than make up for the pace, and I know that this will be a book I read again and again over the coming years. I think it is my favorite Stiefvater novel yet and, even in spite of its flaws, I feel completely obligated to give The Scorpio Races a five-star rating.