There are a lot of mythical creatures that I’m surprised don’t make it into books more often. Mermaids. Griffins. Enenra (look it up). Phoenixes. Water horses. Tickle monsters.
Okay, maybe not that last one. But seriously, of all of the amazing magical animals out there, you’d think they’d show up more often in novels.
When people told me to read The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, I was rather hesitant. I looked it up anyway, expecting something about scorpion racing, which didn’t particularly excite me because I don’t like anything even distantly related to bugs.
Then I realized The Scorpio Races is a novel centered around the racing of ferocious, deadly-fast water horses. It took me less than a second to decide that I wanted in.
The Scorpio Races is now among the few novels that I’ve read and given 5-star rating to this year. Once I explain the plot I think you’ll understand why.
The Scorpio Races. It happens ever November. The men of Thisby gallop their water horses along the beach, trying to make it across the finish line without losing control and being drowned by their steeds.
Sean Kendrick, a boy of 19, has won the races four years on a water horse that is owned by another but can only be controlled by him. He speaks little and keeps his thoughts close. He has one goal and means to focus all he has on attaining it: One day he means to own the horse that he has won so many races on. This year may be his chance.
Puck Connolly has no interest in water horses or the Scorpio Races: If it weren’t for those two things, her parents might still be alive. But fate doesn’t seem to care about her opinion: Either she rides in and wins the Scorpio Races or she loses their house, her horse, and at least one of her brothers.
So she enters the competition and becomes the first girl to ride in the Races….And the only person to ride it on a normal horse.
Some riders will survive. Some riders will die. Both Puck and Sean are aiming far higher than that. They mean to win, but only one of them can seize the title.
Maggie Stiefvater is one of the more talented authors I’ve come across. It’s difficult to decide which is her strongest point: Her concise yet poetic prose, her deep character development, her impeccable world-building, her masterful handling of dual POV, or her spot-on pacing.
Reading her novel made me feel like a kid in a candy store: I got so excited by everything I was reading that I felt like my head was going to explode.
One of my absolute favorite aspects of this novel was the relationships.
That and the awesome concept of magical horses that crawl out of the ocean and like to race when they aren’t eating or drowning people. Seriously. Great world-building and interpretation of Celtic legend.
But back to the relationship portion: It’s fairly rare to see a modern novel that features accurate sibling relationships, but Stiefvater knew exactly what she was doing. Puck joins the Scorpio Races in a last ditch effort to keep her older brother from leaving Thisby. It will only keep him on the island for a little bit longer, but she’s willing to put her life on the line to get that extra time to find a way to keep what’s left of her family together.
Also, can I mention how adorable Puck’s younger brother is? Because he’s precious. Loyal, smart, and maybe a bit OCD, he stuck by Puck’s side no matter what. I spoke about sibling love on my blog a while ago and I still maintain that this book has one of the best examples of sibling love done right.
I was also excited to see the relationship between Sean and Puck. At the beginning, I felt concerned that it would end up being one of those dumb “I hate this person” romances given that they’re racing against each other. But it wasn’t. It was a deep friendship with each half of the couple fueling the other to do the best that they possibly could. A gazillion points for writing a non-love triangle, friendship-based, non-annoying YA romance. That is a very rare feat.
Sean found strength through Puck’s wild courage and Puck learns how to have the quiet, immovable resolve that Sean possesses. And the reader learns both of these lessons and many, many more through seeing these characters fight to keep their lives together.
I wish I could explain to you how gorgeous and strong Stiefvater’s writing style is. Her description of the beach made me feel like I standing right there on Thisby, hearing the crashing of the waves and smelling the salt in the air. I could feel the power of the water horse magic when I read about Sean on their backs and I experienced Puck’s need to win the races and save her family.
It takes a special human to immerse a complete stranger in an imagined world and inspire them through the actions of nonexistant people. That kind of writing isn’t something to be overlooked.
I cannot recommend this novel enough. Before reading it, I’d heard of Maggie Stiefvater several times. I got comments on my blog about her, tweets about her, and her books kept showing up in my Pinterest and Goodreads feed. I couldn’t figure out why people wouldn’t just chill out about her, but now that I’ve read her work I’m officially joining the “Never shut up about Maggie Stiefvater” club. Now if I can just find out how to pronounce her name correctly….
Have you read The Scorpio Races or anything else by Maggie Stiefvater? Which of her novels should I read next? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so don’t leave me hanging!