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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio Races

The Scorpio Races
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Released: October 18, 2011
Genre: YA fantasy
Pages: 409 (first edition hardcover)
Publisher: Scholastic Press
"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."

After reading this novel, I have decided that I've seriously underestimated Maggie Stiefvater.

The Scorpio Races is not a novel; it is an experience full of emotional ups and downs. It is a visit to the breathtaking world of the deadly creatures known as capaill uisce--by far the most fascinating creatures I've read in YA in a long time.

The novel takes place on the fictional Irish island of Thisby, mysterious place known to be the home of the capaill uisce--flesh-eating horse monsters that emerge from the sea every fall. For as long as anybody remembers, the men of Thisby have captured these deadly creatures from the sea and  trained them for riding in the annual competition: the Scorpio Races.

The novel comes from two perspectives. One is the perspective of Kate Connolly, known as Puck, who is racing to win her family the prize money--and is the first female ever to compete. The other is the perspective of the well-respected Sean Kendrick, four-time champion of the races. He's independent, talented, and seemingly fearless--but only seemingly.

The thing I loved most about this story was the setting. Maggie Stiefvater's world-building really impressed me; the island of Thisby is a seemingly quiet place that in reality, breathes danger and magic.  The capaill uisce (that's CAP-ple ISH-ka) are based off the water horses of Irish legend and are by far the most unique and fascinating creatures I've read about in a YA novel in a long, long time. Vampires, werewolves, and angels? Overdone. Flesh-eating horse monsters? Yes please!

Maggie Stiefvater's imagery is absolutely gorgeous. Her writing style is fluid and vivid and entrancing, and is number two on the things that made this book so great to me. Her descriptions during action scenes are sharp and capture the book's fast-paced violence well.

The narrators Puck and Sean are both good characters, but Sean especially. As somebody who is closed-off to everybody around him, it's truly interesting to be able to see inside Sean's mind as he reveals himself to be a multi-layered character. Puck, although she doesn't quite have the engaging quality that Sean does, is certainly a strong heroine, and is definitely likable.

Now, I have a few warnings for you.

This is not a romance novel.


While the novel's romance is definitely there, it's quite subtle, and instead of being a huge factor into the story, it's more of a subplot that doesn't show up until halfway through the book. Despite the subtlety, Puck and Sean have a chemistry that only makes the story that much better.


Whatever you do, please don't give up during the first 100 pages!

For me, this was the book's worst flaw: pacing. The first hundred pages were absolutely brutal for me. While I was blown away by Stiefvater's amazing writing, nothing important happened in the beginning; it was all an intro to the characters and the world of Thisby. In fact, WARNING: the actual Scorpio Races only take up around 10 pages toward the end of the book. That's right, The Scorpio Races is one of those buildup books: it's about the journey rather than the main event itself. Once you accept this fact,  you can appreciate the suspense and buildup properly, and the story becomes infinitely better.

If you are looking for something similar to Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, this isn't it. While this book has similar pacing problems, it is not focused on romance like Shiver, is far more violent, and is far more original. So, while this book isn't for everybody, those who have the patience are in for something amazing.

My Rating:
4 Brains.

Recommended if:
-you are looking for a YA novel with originality. Yes, I'm looking at you, vampire and dystopian books.
-you enjoy books that involve a lot of buildup.
-you like fantastic imagery.
-you don't mind quite a bit of violence. 

Until next time!

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