The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
On the first of November, someone always dies on Thisby. The annual race of capaill uisce, predatory water horses that come ashore on this crag of an island, is a celebration of life and a triumph over death. But only if the rider makes it to the finish line. Sean Kendrick is the returning champion and plans to win again on the blood-red uisce named Corr. Kate Connolly, known as Puck, also intends to win—and challenge the island’s ancient rules in the process. Only one can cross the finish line as the winner of the Scorpio Race.
I fell headlong into Stiefvater’s THE SCORPIO RACES and didn’t want to return to the real world until I could turn the last page. Several things stood out to me about this captivating story. The first was the strong sense of place. Thisby was so vivid I felt the cold October wind on my face and the mud on my boots. Life is hard on this island. People survive, and a scant few even thrive, in a complicated web.
In addition, I loved the new take on the mythology of Celtic water horses. As someone who grew up riding horses, I’ve felt the exhilaration of a breathtaking ride and the gripping fear of an animal that decides to exert their own nature. The independence and thrill of riding a giant, man-eating horse seems to be an apt metaphor for a coming of age story. After all, beating the odds is what life on Thisby is about.
My favorite element of the book was the alternating voices of Sean and Puck. The characters are set at cross purposes, but I wanted to see them both succeed. While there is a faint hint of new romance here, the true love triangle is each character, their mount, and the island. I loved Sean’s understanding of the ancient ways. And yet I rooted for Puck to overturn the misogynistic tradition of the race. By race day, my allegiance was as knotted as the relationships on Thisby.
In a YA market saturated with dystopian futures, the old-world of THE SCORPIO RACES felt as fresh as hope.
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