The Scorpio Races

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

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. (Goodreads)

I’ve tried a few times to write a review for this book, but I’m finding it extremely difficult to put my thoughts together.  Let me start off by saying, I was not a fan of Stiefvater’s Shiver series. I say that not to knock her novels, but to let you know that I’m not biased because of a previous preference for her work. Still,  I am so happy that I was offered the opportunity to read The Scorpio Races because it was so, so good.

The story is set on the island of Thisby, where we find Kate “Puck” Connolly,  a young girl whose family barely has enough to survive, and who has become the first girl to ever enter to compete in The Scorpio Race.  It’s a major event on the island. And it’s a deadly one. People come to watch as men race their “tamed” water horses—also called capaill uisce— along the cliffs and shores, hoping to at least survive the race without the call of the water pulling the horses back in, or worse, without becoming prey to the capaill uisce themselves.

Already that sounds sort of crazy,  doesn’t it?  The capaill uisce are inspired by Celtic legends.  And though  Stiefvater gives us her own version of the legends, she doesn’t give us sweet ponies. These creatures are fierce. They rise from the ocean depths craving flesh and blood. And they always want to return to the water. They’re a danger to anyone who comes in contact with them. And that is where Sean comes in.

Sean Kendrick trains capaill uisce.  He’s won the races for the past few years and this year he hopes to do it again. The stakes are higher for him now due to a deal he makes with the owner of the ranch where he works.  For both Sean and Puck, winning is everything.  But they develop this beautiful, slow relationship (one that isn’t simply romantic, or just friendly, but is something bigger than both of them) as Sean tries to help Puck prepare for the race. They both need to win, but neither wants to see the other lose.

I was completely sucked into this world. Thisby came alive for me, both in the vivid pictures painted by Stiefvater and by the telling relationships she built.  Puck has lost her parents and she and her younger brother are about to be abandoned by their eldest brother Gabe. And yet you can feel Gabe’s pain and you can sense that he’s given in because life on Thisby is too harsh, too bleak to maneuver.  Puck is infinitely stronger than her brother and thus, she fights for the survival of her family. She does exactly what she wants, despite the protests of everyone (and despite how it may frighten her). And Sean, oh I loved his character. Sean has no one but the capaill uisce.  They’re his entire life. And yet he becomes so devoted to Puck and is willing to do anything for her. And she for him.

This story is not full of cliffhangers and heavy-duty action (though the race will have you on the edge of your seat). It takes its time, builds slowly and develops the background and relationships with believability and ease.  And the romance develops at a slow pace too. I was dying for some kissing, but trust me that when it happens it feels completely authentic. Be patient with this story. Some things are worth the wait.

Crush Intensity: 4.75/5 I fear I can’t properly express what a wonderful book this is.

Thank you to Scholastic and Big Honcho Media for sending me a copy of The Scorpio Races! I loved it!