The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater (2011)
- This is not a YA blog, but I do read and enjoy YA literature on occasion. I thought I would start the series YA on Friday, to sporadically highlight some young adult books now and again.
- Maggie Steifvater calls this her favorite of all her books.
- In addition to this stand alone novel, she has written two other YA series, the completed Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, and the ongoing Raven Boys Cycle, with the 4th installment’s release expected later this year.
- Maggie Steifvater plays various instruments, and wrote and performed the score used in the audiobook version of The Scorpio Races.
The story centers around two island dwellers who bravely enter the dangerous and deathly Scorpio Races. Puck, a young girl desperately trying to keep her family together, and Sean, returning champion and repeat winner of races past, who has something he is desperately seeking.
The story begins with this:
They came in with the tide. The moon illuminated long lines of froth as the waves gathered and gathered and gathered offshore, and when they finally broke on the sand, the capaill uisce tumbled onto the shore with them. The horses pulled their heads up with effort, trying to break free from the salt water.
Aaaaaand, I’m hooked. There is such an aura of magic that hovers on the edges of this story, yet it’s told in such a realistic way that doesn’t seem fanciful. There is nothing overly special about the writing per se, but the way Steifvater molds the words into this story, is truly remarkable.
Of note, this is an example of a book, that I can recognize has some problems, but I just enjoyed the hell out of it, so all can be forgiven from my perspective. Take that for what it’s worth.
I want to start by saying, I experienced this novel in audio book format, and absolutely, 100% recommend doing the same. The story is told in alternating chapters between Sean and Puck, and is read by two narrators, a male and female, for the shifting perspectives. Everything about their voices was perfect, and really brought these characters to life. It was read in a way that I could clearly envision each scene with near perfect clarity.
Let’s talk about the setting… as isolated island, that once a year is flooded with “mainlander” tourists who buy stuff, make bets, and are eager spectators of the Scorpio Races. Most of the island’s year-round inhabitants are relatively poor farmers or craftsmen, trudging day to day, trying to make a living. They get a chance at greatness and riches once per year, if they are brave enough to enter the races. The way the island is described, is beautiful, yet a bit desolate, surrounded by the angry sea, which is filled with the danger of the killer water horses, or capaill uisce, as they are called in the book. These are the very horses, that one must capture, train, and successfully ride in the race, without getting killed.
Sean and Puck are fantastic characters. Puck is this feisty tom boy, who is just trying to do the best she can, has a bit of a prickly personality and a lot of gumption. Sean is this lonely, silent type, who can say it all with a brooding look, and has an uncanny ability to communicate with the capaill uisce, in a way no one else can. The slow slow slow development of their relationship is utter perfection. Don’t mind me, hardcore shipping over here!
Overall, even if you aren’t a fan of YA or fantasy elements, I think you could really get into this book. Again, not to over-stress it, but listen to it on audio – you won’t be sorry!!!
Rating: [4.5/5 stars]
Looking for more:
- Jamie’s review @ The Perpetual Page-Turner. She didn’t find it the slam dunk I did, but I can completely see what she is saying in her review. Many of the negatives I easily forgave but alluded to above – she does a nice job of explaining them.
- Julie’s review @ Book Hooked Blog. Another die hard fan of the audio book format. I sat in my car in the garage listening too, so no worries, you’re not alone!