Friday, February 24, 2012

Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Reviewed by Maggie: February 24, 2012
Published October 18, 2011 by Scholastic Inc.
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This was a book I was ready to hate. Actually, if I'm being honest, this was a book I wanted to hate. What? German foosball players aren't the only ones capable of schadenfreude.

Plus, this was a story about horses, those vicious, four-legged beasts that naive children are tricked into riding at summer camp before they're brutally thrown off. Hypothetically speaking, of course. Yet I found myself drawn into this story, this mythic tale of savage water horses in a barbaric race created by all too real people, and I found myself hoping it was all real. Because that would mean Sean, Corr, Puck, and Dove exist. I loved these characters, never mind that Corr and Dove are two of those four-legged beasts I despised not too long ago.

Maggie Stiefvater's mythic capaill uisce are wild water horses that come ashore the island of Thisby once a year. Those capaill that have been captured are raced in the island's famous Scorpio Races, a tradition similar to the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, but with far more deadly results. It attracts crowds from all over, people drawn to the thrilling and terrible spectacle. The Scorpio Races are so dangerous that fatalities occur before the race even starts. Capaill are controlled by two things: the call of the ocean and their bloodlust. Despite months or even years of training by the capall whisperer, Sean Kendrick, capaill can never fully be trusted. Their natural instinct to kill is too strong. It can only be temporarily curbed. However, the tremendous risk of the races comes with even greater reward. The races are Thisby's main attraction, so most islanders just manage to eke out a living. Winning the races comes with an enormous, irresistible purse. All residents of Thisby have lost a person, or more often persons, to capaill. And if the horses don't get them, Thisby gets to them and they end up leaving. For Kate "Puck" Connolly, one has already happened and the other is about to happen. Her parents were killed by capaill while out fishing, and her older brother, the main breadwinner, is about to leave the island. (Raise your hand if you just pictured Matthew Fox as both Charlie Salinger and Jack Shephard.) Puck impulsively says she's going to race to get her brother to stay, or at least delay him, but when she finds out they are about to lose their house, she realizes she has to race. Sean, the whisperer, lost his father to capaill and his mother to the mainland, but he's won the races 4 times. That enormous purse and the gorgeous horse he rode on, though, belong to his boss. He races because it's his job, and he can't imagine anyone else on Corr. Puck and Sean are literally on a collision course.

This is usually the part of the story where a rich and handsome 3rd party enters the picture, but The Scorpio Races isn't a love story. It's a survival story. The only love triangle here is between a capall, his rider, and the ocean -- and it's beautiful and heartbreaking.

This is a book I saw in my head. Maggie Stiefvater crafts such a visual story I could picture every scene. For Thisby, I pictured Jersey in the Channel Islands. The dual points of view of Sean and Puck allowed me to get into their heads. When I started this book, I figured I'd just read it and rate it and be done with it. After all, why spend my time writing a review for an author who doesn't really value them? In this case, it's because what the author put out is that good. It's the same debate I go through whenever I think about buying Kanye's latest album. Yeah, he says shit that irritates the hell out of me, but damn, does he know how to make music. Maggie Stiefvater? She knows how to make music.

Verdict: 5/5 stars.


  1. Oh, my god, Maggie, this is an absolutely stunning review! I rarely gush over reviews, but this is a gush-worthy book and then you added to it by making it sound just right...

    but The Scorpio Races isn't a love story. It's a survival story.

    *sighs* I wish more people would understand that. Then maybe the pacing wouldn't be such an issue. I never thought of it as slow. I judt hoped it'd never end.

    1. Awww! Thanks, Maja! :) And yeah, I didn't think it was slow at all. Sean Kendrick can touch my wrist any. time. -M

  2. Great review, Maggie! I really enjoyed this book, she has such a beautiful way of writing.


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