Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publication Date: October 18th, 2011
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Number of Pages: 409
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, YA, Romance
Source: Public Library
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.
So I kind of loved this book.
Okay wow. This book was way better than I thought it’d be. The use of the waterhorse myth (capaill uisce are my fave now) and the character’s stories were all so beautifully done. The prose is elegantly written (for the most part), accommodating the floaty, fantastical mood of the book really well. There were a lot problems in terms of pacing and for me, characters, but as a whole, I really really liked this book.
In my opinion, the best part of this book was the worldbuilding. The island of Thisby (intentional allusion maybe?) is whimsical, dangerous and magical, and mysterious while also being entirely transparent. The people living on it day to day… well they kinda all went over my head. There were too many of them introduced and none of them were particularly memorable. However, Thisby seemed to breathe throughout the book. There was a living quality to the setting that I appreciated. It was part of the setting in the way that the island was made to be part of the waterhorse myth. There were so many strange rituals that reminded me of ancient religious offerings (Thank you AP World History) but they were kind of interesting. The characters are highly superstitious of their home. The island was definitely my favorite part of the book.
“The water is rising, quickly and silently; the tide is coming in, and in an hour, this incomplete cave will be full of seawater higher than my head. I am listening for the sound of a splash, for the rush of a hoof breaking the surface, for any hint that a capall uisce is emerging. Because by the time you hear a hoof click on the stones, you are dead.” (Stiefvater 27-28)
Now in terms of characters, I’m sorry but I think that the island would be a better character than any of the ones offered in The Scorpio Races. And by that I mean the island was easier to figure out. While Puck is characterized pretty well…. it seemed kind of forced. Sean too. Both of them could have been characterized really well (and they were close) but the thing that kind of undermined it was the writing (Which worked with the island. Not so much with the characters). Now I know that I said like a paragraph ago that the writing was beautiful. And it was! It’s just that since it was written in first-person it didn’t really match up that well with the character’s actions. And Puck had more character than Sean. As much as I loved Sean’s character (and I have serious fangirl love for him), I couldn’t help but feel like his entire personality was too guarded. I feel like that I, as a reader, never really got to seeing the entirety of his character (Actually if I’m thinking logically, it might be because I like him a lot so I want more from his point of view). Even so, I did think that I grew to really like the characters. As I became more familiar with the writing, I was able to focus on the characters and their personalities. At this point, in my opinion, was when I got to really figure out the layers of the characters. I realized that I really liked Puck and Sean. The personalities were there, it’s just that I had to dig for it a bit. On the other hands, the way the author handled their backstories was good. It was woven into the story well and served to become each character’s motivation to enter the races.
Well, I didn’t think this was going to be a romance at all. There’s like no indication in the summary that there was going to be romance. And as much as I like the characters, I really did not like the romance.
There were cute parts, yes. I liked those a lot. But the progression to it? Kinda awkward. Apparently they have this “chemistry” that every other character in the book can feel. They stare at each other across broad expanses of people. Eventually they become comrades that train together for the races. And even then, I felt like they had no chemistry. I kind of ship them? Sort of? They were kind of cute together but I don’t get the feeling that they will be together through all eternity.
(Okay that’s my kpop fan getting in the way sorry)
Oh and don’t be put off by this because the romance is pretty minor. It doesn’t really come up until much later in the book and even then, it’s just a subplot to the races.
Well otherwise, the only other big “problem” would be the pacing. The slow pacing. I talked about this in an earlier post but I honestly do think that this book went way too slowly. Instead of being all about the race, it was more about the training for it. It felt like a contemporary novel with an added element of the waterhorse. It certainly wasn’t bad. I actually kind of liked it until a certain point when I honestly was just waiting for the race to start. There was definitely a limit to how much slow descriptions I could take. I didn’t think it was horrible but I know that others definitely would. My only argument for that is that I’d rather read a bunch of buildup than read 300 pages that details everything about one hour-long race. The book wasn’t just about the Scorpio Race. It was also about Puck and Sean’s own dilemmas and the book reflected that appropriately.