Book Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Written by: Maggie Stiefvater
Release Date: October 18, 2011
Pages: 336, hardcover
Series: Standalone
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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.

 

LetsTalk

The Scorpio Races has been on my radar since it first came out; the cover was pretty freaking awesome, all my friends were huge Stiefvater fans, and murderous flesh-eating water horses do sound kind of cool. This summer, when I read the Raven Cycle and completely fell in love with Stiefvater’s writing, The Scorpio Races moved substantially higher on my to-read list. While my attachment to this book isn’t as deep as it is to The Raven Cycle, the Scorpio Races is still amazing. The book focuses on a boy and a girl whose paths intersect when they enter the Scorpio Races for their own reasons. The resulting story made me fall in love not only with Sean and Puck, but with their horses, Puck’s family, and Thisby Island itself

Maggie Stiefvater is so good at crafting settings with a very distinct atmosphere and memorable characters. I would put headphones in my ears, listen to a chapter or two, and get completely lost in her world. Everything was vivid and atmospheric. By the end of the book, I felt like I had really been to Thisby, met all of the townspeople, eaten November cakes, seen the capaill uisce (aka: previously mentioned murderous flesh-eating water horses) up close. We never find out precisely where or when the story takes place, but I didn’t mind; it added to the separateness of the world, made it stand out.

Honestly, The Scorpio Races is incredibly difficult to review. I can (and did) (and will again) say that I love the characters, and the setting, and the writing, and the mythology, but none of that seems like enough. This isn’t the kind of story I can describe, I don’t think. It’s the kind of story you have to immerse yourself in and really feel.

Didn'tWork

My only real issue with the book was the pacing. Most of the time I barely even noticed because I loved everything else so much, but…wow, the race the whole book was building up to was over in the space of maybe ten minutes. There also wasn’t much falling action; the end felt a little abrupt, and I wouldn’t have minded if the book had continued for just one more chapter. That said, I’m still very happy with how the story ended, and the last chapter and particularly the last line are some of the best writing Maggie Stiefvater has ever done, which is saying a lot.

DidWork

Maggie Stiefvater was able to create a world that felt magical and real at the same time, wild and fierce and intense, but also deeply human. I don’t know if I can describe it properly; I can throw around words like “vivid” and “atmospheric” and “immersive” (which are in every single review of this book for a reason) but the words you really need are Maggie Stiefvater’s, so here, have a quote!

What it’s like is a battle. A mess of horses and men and blood. The fastest and strongest of what is left from two weeks of preparation on the sand. It’s the surf in your face, the deadly magic of November on your skin, the Scorpio drums in the place of your heartbeat. It’s speed, if you’re lucky. It’s life and it’s death or it’s both, and there’s nothing like it.

…yeah. I’m just going to sit there staring into space for ten minutes straight because I love Maggie Stiefvater’s writing so much.

All of the characters were very well-developed and multifaceted, even the minor ones. I particularly loved Puck’s relationship with her brothers (any story where family plays a role is a big win for me) and Sean’s relationship with his capaill uisce, Corr. (I just have a lot of feelings about the beautiful love between a boy and his flesh-eating water horse. That’s normal, right?) There is romance, and going into the book I was scared that it would feel forced, but the relationship was subtle and developed naturally, and I definitely felt things. Since I listened to The Scorpio Races as an audiobook, I will add that both narrators were perfect and gave me a feel for their characters almost immediately.

Of course, the most unique mark of the book is the capaill uisce themselves, the ferocious and majestic horses who will kill you if you make the wrong move, and I loved them. When I finished the book, their image stayed with me more than anything else; Maggie Stiefvater’s descriptions make my breath catch a little every time.

Pickup

Pick up, no question! The Scorpio Races is wonderful and immersive and full of nuanced characters and breathtaking descriptions, and if you’re interested in horses, or a fan of Maggie Stiefvater, or interested in getting into her books, this book is perfect for you.

Polina 

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