When I was reading this book, I was hoping and praying that it wouldn’t end with Puck and Sean both winning in some twist of luck. That’s not realistic because there really isn’t any fathomable way that both would be able to win. There aren’t two first place prizes in a race.
*This will have spoilers!Thankfully, it didn’t come out too predictably. There was a twist that was definitely foreshadowed. Actually, if you put together the clues that Stiefvater had, the ending would not have been surprising at all. She has a pretty big theme going on with loyalty and understanding of both people and animals. This goes on to hugely affect the ending of the book.
So how does the book end?
Well the race doesn’t take up very much of the book. As a matter of fact, it takes up about…. fifty pages or so. The races starts and ends in about three to four chapters. I know that people complained, but I think that that decision was a logical decision. A race does not take 200+ pages to describe. If that was the case, then we would all be very bored because each detail of the race would be in so much detail. Do you know what show does that? A lot of anime does that. A single basketball game will take three to four episodes to animate. But visually representing it is way different than a book.
So what happens is that it starts out rough. Sean immediately finds an opening in which he could run through to win. The difference between now and before is that while he would have taken the chance in previous years, this time he waits. He waits for Puck to make her move towards the finish line. Meanwhile, Puck is stuck in the back, where capaille uisce mercilessly pound into each other to get to the end. Dove, her mare, barely gets out without getting hurt. She hugs the sea since other riders are afraid to get into the water for fear that the capaille uisce will lose control. After all, they are water horses, and the sea is their natural habitat. She finally gets free from the pack before Mutt, atop a wild piebald mare rides towards her. The piebald mare bites Dove. But then Sean dives in and saves the day. Mutt cuts the piebald to anger her and dumps the reins on Sean to control. He jumps, leaving Sean with two horses. Puck, free, speeds towards the finish line where she gets first. Sean on the other hand, nearly dies. Skata, the piebald mare, knees him in the head, knocking him out cold. When we come back to him, after learning of Puck’s victory, we learn that Corr is now lame, with a broken leg.
That was how the race played out. If you know how the deal went, it was that if Sean won he’d be able to buy Corr off of Malvern. Clearly he wasn’t able to do this. This is where Puck stepped in. She stepped in and paid for Corr. Some more bad*ssery happens (on Puck’s part) and we reach the end. Sean tries to release Corr, believing that the capaill uisce will want to be free with a lame leg, instead of on land. To everyone’s surprise, and everything the book has described up until now, Corr refuses, wanting to stay with Sean
It is a little cliche. Just a little. Not the race that is, but the fact that Sean wanted to release Corr. There are a lot of books where the main character releases his or her beloved pet into the wild to be free. Usually the animal desires it, wanting to become one with his or her native home.
Now in the case of this book, I think it was the perfect ending. Throughout the whole book, we are beat over the head with the idea that these capaill uisce are beautiful, deadly creatures. People can are killed yearly by the horses. The characters have grown up knowing that they are deadly. They sacrifice blood to the island before the race in hopes that less people will die by the hands of the capaill uisce.
“Our parents tried hard to shield us from the realities of the uisce horses, but it was impossible to avoid it. Friends would miss school because an uisce horse had killed their dog overnight. Dad would have to drive around a ruined carcass on the way to Skarmouth, evidence of where a water horse and a land horse had gotten into a fight. The bells at St. Columba’s would ring midday for the funeral of a fisherman caught unawares on the shore.
Finn and I don’t need to be told how dangerous the horses are. We know. We know it every day.” (Stiefvater 14-15)
In contrast to this stark fear of the capaill uisce, we are introduced Sean. He is the only person on the entire island that is able to tame a water horse. He has a highly intimate relationship with Corr, the one water horse that he loves like family. He’s fiercely loyal to him but he does not trust him. But as the book continues, we learn that Sean has never given up on Corr. The entire reason that Sean hasn’t left the stable is because of Corr. Corr has won him champion titles and practically makes him who he is. He doesn’t know who he is without his capaill uisce.
And this is precisely why the ending is perfect. It contradicts every single thing we’ve learned about capaill uisce to this point. We learn that even the most powerful, most terrifying beasts can be loyal to a person but that relationship requires time and effort. We learn that loyalty pays off in huge ways. We learn that even the deadliest creatures have emotions. Sean, who has battled with himself over how close he should be with his capaill uisce finally learns that everything that he’s done has been worth it. It is that act of loyalty that allows us to know that a good relationship takes everything to develop.