Publisher: Scholastic Press (October 18, 2011)
Reviewed by: Judith
Totally should have listened to Rebecca from Crunchings and Munchings book blog back in August 2012 when she first urged me to read this book because it is AMAZINGLYFABULOUSLYSUPERBLYAWEINSPIRING! Real word, awesome book.
Plot: Only on the isle of Thisby can mythical flesh-eating horses be found in the sea. If
you manage to catch one, you can enter the world-renowned Scorpio Races that happen yearly on the 1st of November. The winner earns fame and fortune beyond all else. 19 year old, Sean Kendrick, has raced and won for the last four years and he owes his wins to the special affinity he has with the red-skinned scorpio horse, Corr. Orphaned Kate “Puck” Connelly and her two brothers are in desperate need of money. When her elder brother, Gabe, finally decides to leave Thisby as a means of bettering their situation, Kate impulsively signs up for the race in an effort to force him to stay. This brings her into close contact with the half-wild Sean Kendrick. As training for the races begins and the actual day of reckoning draws closer, both Kate and Sean must decide what is most important in their lives and whether they can live with what the race results bring.
Review: For all that is good and sweet in the world, how did I not read this book sooner? Part mythological cautionary tale, part love story, Maggie Stiefvater creates a magical world in the Scorpio Races that blends seamlessly with our own. We get cars and stop watches mingling with meat eating water horses who rise from the sea and wreak havoc on the island of Thisby. It’s so well done that the fantasy aspect of the story is secondary to the actual plot. It’s a non-issue that doesn’t in any way seem off or fantastical. In fact, it enhances a simple story, making it beautiful and compelling. I promise you, if you give The Scorpio Races a chance, it will get its hooks in you during the prologue and will not let up until the last sentence. My only regret is that the book ends as quickly as it does. It is amazing.
Sean Kendrick was orphaned by the dangerous flesh eating water horses both loved and feared by the islanders. That does not make him hate them. Instead, he has a strange affinity for all horses, be they the natural or mythological. He understands them, feels with them, and is well known on Thisby as a horse-whisperer of sorts. His only desire is to finally buy his beloved water horse, Corr, from his owner and maybe open his own stable. It’s a simple dream that is not so simply won. For all his seeming simplicity, Sean Kendrick is a very complex character. His needs and wants are based off his love for a creature that could turn on him at any moment and kill him. It’s both sickening and heart wrenching to watch his interactions with Corr. When he he is offered the chance to buy Corr if he manages to win the race for the 5th time, Sean becomes a symbol of hope and you will wish against everything that he’ll get what he wants.
His story is intertwined with that of Puck Connelly, a local orphan girl in desperate need of a reason to keep her brother on the island. When she blurts out her intention to enter the Scorpio Races, she earns a few more weeks of his time but at what cost? The water horses rightfully frighten her and she has no money to buy one in order to compete. When she finally enters the race and chooses to ride her own horse, the very normal Dove, your heart will plummet for this girl. She is willing to risk not only her own life but the life of the only thing she loves in the world outside of her brothers in an effort to keep her family together. Her character is truly selfless and undaunted. There’s the added grief of her being the first woman to enter the races and the first to ride a normal horse. Watching her attempt to battle small-minded island men and pity is a difficult but uplifting thing.
In the end, when Sean and Puck’s path finally cross, we are given the chance to watch these two strong characters grow and learn to love. But at what cost can these two love one another? Both Sean and Puck need to win for their own private reasons but the fact that they have come to love each other means hurting one or the other to have what they most want. The result of the race will shock you and I have to admit, I cried bittersweet tears.
The ending is tragic but fitting and you’ll realize (if you haven’t read one of her books already) that Maggie Stiefvater is a master storyteller and force to watch out for. Truly, a gorgeous book that is not typical YA fare. Read it and love it!
Final score: 10/10
How much did I like the heroine: 10. Puck is difficult and taciturn, a prickly girl who is not very feminine but what she lacks in wiles, she more than makes up for in courage. She stands up against men who think she is unworthy to race, her family who thinks she is crazy for even thinking of racing, and the very water horses themselves who terrify her. Her character is selfless, strong, and amazingly resilient. She is what every one of us should hope to be.
How much did I like the love interest: 10. Sean Kendrick doesn’t emote much and is quieter than the grave but when Puck earns a rare smile out of him? I wanted to melt. He loves horses, especially the blood thirsty Corr, and the sea and is the closest to a perfect hero that I’ve found in a long time. His actions speak much louder than words since he doesn’t talk very much at all but reading about him on a horse will give you goosebumps.
How believable is the plot: 10. Like I mentioned earlier, the mythological aspects blend so seamlessly with reality that I was shocked how normal they felt after just a few pages. You can honestly believe that there’s a tiny island out there called Thisby where blood thirsty magical horses erupt from the sea. The true story is less about the mythology than about the love of a man for a horse and a woman.
How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 10. This girl can write. Lyrical and haunting, her style of writing floors me every time. I’m in awe of what she can do with the written word.
How much did I want to keep reading: 10. The story ended abruptly to me but it was a very fitting end so obviously I wanted more but was satisfied with what I got. A rare happening.
Final Score: 10/10. Nothing short of amazing. All I can say is, the book is kind of expensive but oh so worth it. I’ve been thinking of nothing but this for days.