Book Description (from Amazon):
Some race to win. Others race to survive.
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 choice. 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. This is awkward…. Kinda like when one of your friends sets you up on a date with one of their friends, because “You guys will totally hit it off!” Except you kinda don’t? Because their friend is a little bit overly familiar and touchy and that puts you off because you’re secretly a prude? It’s like that.
Only with a book. And minus the overly-touchy date.
I read a lot of good things about “The Scorpio Races,” so I eagerly tucked it into my carry-on bag for our long weekend over Easter. I was drawn in right away by the descriptions of the island of Thisby, by the “strong silent type” character of Sean Kendrick and the mixture of mundane and magical that effortlessly blend in Maggie Stiefvater’s writing.
Puck Connolly decides to enter the yearly Scorpio Races as an attention grab to get her brother to stay on the island until after the festival. She lives alone with her two brothers since her parents were killed in an accident involving the deadly water horses that live in the ocean surrounding Thisby. Unfortunately, Gabe has forgotten to mention to his siblings that they’re horribly behind on the payments of their mortgage and are going to lose the house. His solution is to move to the mainland and attempt to make a living there.
Here’s issue number one with the story. Puck cared a great deal about keeping her fragmented family together, and I didn’t see that Gabe was particularly worth fighting for. His desertion of his siblings seemed more selfish than anything, especially after it came to light that he hadn’t been honest with them about potentially losing their home.
Sean Kendrick has a rare connection with his water-horse Conn, who happens to be owned by Sean’s employer. Nobody can manage the capaill uisce like Sean, but that doesn’t stop them from trying. If he wins the race again this year, he finally has a chance to own Conn once and for all. (Conn, btw, is a far better reason to win than Stinky Gabe.)
As the action of the story heats up, the reader is brought more deeply into the yearly excitement that is the Scorpio Festival. It is fraught with danger, as the water horses are vicious beasts. Nobody is safe during the month of November when the horses are drawn to shore, and Stiefvater lets the reader know to never let their guard slip. You’re just as likely to lose an equine character as a human, and there are no punches pulled with the details.
That in itself was my second issue with this book, which I think was entirely my own responsibility. There’s no way to illustrate the danger these people are living with every day without throwing in a few casualties, and I don’t typically consider myself a squeamish reader. Something about the untimely ends met by a few of the characters in this book, human and equine, just continue to not sit well with me.
Even a week after I’ve finished, the thought of this book leaves me with an ache behind my breastbone- Yes, it’s incredibly effective, though in a different way than “The Fault in our Stars.” (That’s become my benchmark for this year. I bet that you couldn’t tell at all). The author’s writing is beautiful and impeccably lyrical. The relationship between Sean and Puck grows slowly and quietly, without the typical passionate drama of some YA couples. I also have to give a thumbs up to this being a self-contained novel, and that Maggie Stiefvater knew exactly how much story she needed, rather than trying to drag her plot out over multiple books without enough material. This is a story of getting what you need out of life, even if it isn’t necessarily getting what you think you want.
Three out of Five November cakes.