Published by Scholastic Press on October 18 2011
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
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.
I’m hovering back and forth between 4 and 4.5 stars for this one, but I'm leaning toward 4.5 because I can't think of any reason why it doesn't deserve it. There are a lot of things that Maggie Stiefvater does right with The Scorpio Races. I try not to compare titles by the same author, but who am I kidding, I totally do anyways, and I must say that I’m much more impressed with this book than I was with The Raven Boys, which I read a few weeks ago.
I really love the setting of this book. The island of Thisby really comes alive on the page and I feel like it’s a place that truly exists, a dreamlike, sometimes nightmarish place that I could visit if I so chose. I think Thisby is supposed to be an island somewhere in the UK, but it is up to interpretation as to which country it is in. I was a bit thrown at first by the talk of American tourists as well as tourists from “the mainland,” which is never given a proper name, but it all came together quite nicely for me.
I think the writing had a lot to do with my ability to become well situated in Puck and Sean’s world. There is a timelessness in Stiefvater’s prose that really works for me. She paints pictures with her words and there is a complexity to her language. I also appreciated how she handled the dual point-of-view, which is something that I am generally not a big fan of. I thought it really worked in this case. The Scorpio Races wouldn’t be as impressive as it is if it was experienced through the eyes of Puck or Sean, rather than both of them.
All of the characters really impressed me, particularly the two main characters. I honestly cannot claim to like one more than the other. I will admit that I struggle to call Puck and Sean's relationship a romance – I regard it more as a deep mutual affection. And that is something that I really loved about this book. There is an understanding between Puck and Sean that is so much older than their years. They don’t rush into things, neither of them looking for more than the other is offering. There is a respect between them that I wish I saw more in YA. Their relationship was one of my favourite things about The Scorpio Races, which is saying a lot because romance is usually one of my least favourite things in the books I read.
I did have a few qualms with The Scorpio Races, which is why I just can’t give it 5 stars. The first is that it was so slow. The first hundred (or more) pages were really quite difficult to get through. It felt like nothing was really happening, and from what I can tell this seems to be a recurring theme in Stiefvater’s repertoire. The first time I tried to read this book, a few years ago, I barely made it through the first two chapters before getting bored and moving on. While I’m glad I finished it this time, I do wish the beginning was more captivating. My other complaint is that the ratio of men to women in this book is frighteningly high. Where are all of the ladies?? I can literally count on one hand the women in The Scorpio Races – Puck, Dory Maud, Elizabeth, and Peg Gratton. There are a few others who are mentioned, but they’re still extremely outnumbered by the men. Are there no girls anywhere near Puck’s age on Thisby? Not a huge deal, but it was something that I found bothersome as I was reading.
On the whole though, I'd highly recommend this book, and not just to horse lovers. I'm not a huge horse person myself, though I'll admit I wanted to be when I was younger. If you're looking for in-depth characterization and slow and steady pacing, this is a great book for you.