The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater
Publisher: Scholastic UK
Released: October 6th 2011
My Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
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.
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. (from Goodreads)
The Scorpio Races was a beautifully written book which drew me in with its rich descriptions and fascinating premise. I had never heard of water horses, or capaill uisce, before, but the way Maggie Stiefvater described them made me very curious – they were beautiful, with great strength and speed, but were also dangerous, terrible, man-eating beasts – to ride one would mean to risk your life. At first I couldn’t understand why anyone would participate in the Scorpio Races; people died every year riding the water horses, and there were so many risks involved it just didn’t seem worth it at all. I could appreciate why many people decided to leave the island of Thisby; if a water horse attacked, the chances of survival were very slim. But as the book went on, I began to understand more about the horses, and the island, and it became clearer why the Scorpio Races were regarded as such a huge event, and why the water horses were so revered.
The book is told in alternating POVs (Puck and Sean), and although I felt it started off a bit slow, I was soon sucked into the carefully and wonderfully weaved story. Puck was a very interesting character; she had lived on the island all her life, and had always loved it, the same way she loved riding her (normal, not water) horse, Dove. She was determined and brave – she feared the water horses, as they killed her parents, but despite her fear, she was determined to do what she had to do, even if it meant risking her life. Competing in the races wasn’t something she wanted to do, it was something she had to, and despite being the first girl ever to do so, despite the attempts of others to stop her, she signed up with confidence that she would not die and she would get through it. I think this showed not only her bravery, but her devotion to the island and to her brothers, and as the story progressed, I started to understand her reasons for loving the island as much as she did, and I knew why she would never leave.
Sean was also an extremely intriguing character. One of kind, it seemed he was the only person in the whole of Thisby with some control over the water horses. They were impossible to tame, and were never to be trusted, but Sean appeared to have a unique ability to calm them and instruct them, and so it was no surprise he was reining champion of the races. I found it strange at first that Sean loved the horses (especially Corr) so much, when they had killed his father. But as we found out more about him, the things he had been through, and the way he understood water horses, it became clearer as to why he did. Corr was the most fascinating water horse for me, because even though he was just as dangerous as the other capaill uisce, he was the one who was with Sean the most, and their bond was unlike any other horse and rider.
I really, really loved the way the relationship between Sean and Puck developed. It started off completely different to how it ended up, and I just can’t even explain how much I liked their interaction, and their conversations, and their practice sessions, and just being together. The way both of them started to realise everything was changing was great to read about, and there were some truly funny comments from people such as George Holly regarding their growing friendship.
Other characters I loved were Finn, Puck’s brother, because he was so sweet and kind, and worried about his sister but also acknowledged he couldn’t stop her, and also George Holly, because although he was an outsider, he seemed to impact a lot of people around him, and he was funny on top of that. I also quite liked the three sisters, even though they were only minor characters, because they were wise and funny and seemed to know somehow how everything would turn out.
The only issued I had was that I felt the way Puck and Sean spoke was very un-teen like; they spoke like adults and used very sophisticated words and grammatical structure, which I felt didn’t really reflect their age. However, they could just be written off as being wise beyond their years, which is understandable, as you have to be mature in order to survive in Thisby.
In conclusion, The Scorpio Races was a spellbinding read, set in a world of both terror and beauty, which left my mind galloping for most of the night after I’d finished reading it. This being the first book I’ve read by the author, I will definitely be checking out Steifvater’s previous works, and I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to be taken on a journey where the sea is alive and perilous, where the sand of the beach is red with blood and where racing horses is the most dangerous of sports.