Title: The Scorpio Races
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
On the first day of November are the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep control of their water horses long enough to cross the finish line. Not every rider survives. Sean Kendrick is the returning champion – a young man of few words, but who shares a strange connection with his water horse, Corr. Puck Connolly only entered the races as a last-ditch attempt to stop her family from falling apart – and as the first girl ever to do so, bloodthirsty water horses are the last of her problems. Sean and Puck are both need the money that winning the Scorpio Races will bring them…but in the end, only one will win…
I wasn’t particularly excited about this book. In fact, the only reason I even picked it up was because I’m writing a novel about water horse races, and I wanted to make sure mine wasn’t too close to Maggie Stiefvater’s. I expected a pretty average horse-race story, with the exception that these horses are killers.
The Scorpio Races had way too much fun trampling my expectations.
First off, I thought the book was going to focus on, well, the Scorpio Races. I thought the main plot would be Puck trying to not get killed while learning to ride one of those dangerous water horses. And, strangely enough, it wasn’t. The book was so much more character-focused that I expected, and in a good way.
Puck, I really liked, although I didn’t really connect with her very well. I admired her determination (more like stubbornness, in some cases) and her desire to keep her family together. I enjoyed reading about her attempts to train her horse to race, and I could sympathize with her fear. I can’t really put into words why I didn’t connect with her (she was a little too…something. Whiny, maybe.), but I didn’t.
Sean (besides the fact that I kept reading his name as “Seen,” a mispronunciation left over from childhood), was my favorite character. Somehow, I connected with him more than I did with any of the other characters. I hated Mutt Malvern for hating Sean, and I admired how Sean handled it. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you why I liked Sean so much – I just did.
I also really liked Puck’s brother Finn. I kept forgetting he was the younger brother. He was a good foil for Puck, laid-back where she’s high-strung and calm where she’s freaking out. He wasn’t a hugely major character, but I enjoyed him and his supportiveness just the same.
Like I said earlier, I thought the plot was going to focus more on the racing part. In reality, it focused more on Puck and Sean. It focused on Puck and her family’s need for money to keep their house, and on Sean’s need for money to buy Corr and get out from under the cruel thumb of Benjamin Malvern. I know it was setting it up for the final showdown – the race, where one of them will win the money and one will not – and it did an excellent job of it, too. By the time the book got to the race part, I wanted both of them to win!
The only thing I really had a problem with was the alternating narration. The book alternated first-person narration between Puck and Sean. Their voices were so similar I had to keep double-checking who was talking, and sometimes I’d be lost for a few sentences before I figured out the narrators switched. Frequently, they switched right in the middle of a chapter, and that really threw me off.
I really enjoyed this book, even though it was nothing like I expected. It had this strange, not-quite-normal vibe, almost like déjà vu – it seemed almost familiar, and at the same time, utterly foreign. The Scorpio Races was an enjoyable, character-driven story and a little out of the norm.