Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

by Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic Press
October 18, 2011
416 Pgs

Some race to win. Others race to survive.
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.

My Rating:  5 – Loved it!  For so many reasons.

I love a good horse book. I read The Black Stallion over and over and still own most of the series including the Island Stallion. I grew up on Thowra, the Silver Brumby, and galloped around our walled garden in Bexleyheath, Kent. So when I saw some reviews stating that “if you like horses, you’ll like Scorpio Races”, I was all over it.

The Scorpio Races is not at all what I expected and nothing like those other (wonderful) books. It’s as wild and faery and otherworldly as something Maggie would write after werewolves and devious musical fairies. The horses are not horses except for the she’s-bigger-than-a-pony Dove. They’re dangerous, flesh-eating, frightening snake-like things that carry the deep ocean with them wherever they go. They gave me the willies!

(No spoilers beyond what might help suck you into this book.)

Sean Kendrick was amazing as a person, as a representative of that wild beach, half on the island, half in ocean. Puck Connolly is the island impersonated. Their love for the crazy island and the horrible legends bring such a longing for “home”, it aches. I am (delightfully) irritated with Sean’s uncompromising love for Corr, I want to yell at him that Corr is an unsteady thing to put so much of his LIFE into. I want to shake Puck’s brother, Gabe, and make him communicate with his growing siblings. I want to hug Puck and tell her I believe in her, but maybe she better listen to everyone. I seriously want to throttle Benjamin Malvern for being so selfish and heartless. And I love Maggie for making me feel so strongly about all of them.

There are hidden writing gems everywhere, phrases that fit too beautifully. They made me stop, pull out of the story and think of marking my book with underlining, which I never do. I wish I had because I need to quote some of those, now. I should have learned to read with a notebook or a better memory. If you read this book… no, I mean, WHEN you read this book, and if you care about delicious wording, have something to write on handy. I’ll be rereading it someday, so I’ll survive.

Few things bothered me, I’ll list both of ‘em.

Hopping POV’s between Sean and Puck was both good and bad, or rather, it wasn’t so much the POV’s, maybe, as the depth. Although I was granted space inside both of their heads, I wasn’t completely inside either. There’s a level of anticipation maintained with that style, but also a buffer of separation. That buffer seemed to grow as the book progressed which led to the space in the middle where I wasn’t getting any closer to the characters and they weren’t getting any closer to the race and I wondered what we were doing. The blanket acceptance of Fate and resignation also had something to do with that. It was depressing. And buffering. (I don't like buffering.)

I really wished Puck would grow interested in the cappaill uisce personally. There were so many questions she didn’t ask that drove me crazy. How could she watch Sean’s tricks with stuff up his sleeves and tying patterns of knots in Corr’s mane and not ask questions about it? He traced Corr's veins, for cryin’ out loud, and no one responded besides giving him reverent space?! (Ok, she did ask about spitting, but there was so much more!) I just couldn’t imagine being in her place and not yearning for some of what Sean had. Well, not and be true to Puck’s self of being the island of Thisby, you know? The cappaill uisce are a part of the island and the explanation of her parent’s aversion wasn’t enough for me. She can’t be herself and have nothing to do with them forever. I don’t think. (Sequel?)

To sum up, I loved the island, the background characters, the cliffs. The romance was perfect between the two main characters, as in, true to themselves. Sean & Puck were both great and frustrating at the same time, consistently. The Cappaill Uisce totally freaked me out, which I thoroughly enjoyed, but did not remind me of horses in the way my horse-lovin’ side would have enjoyed. Which was a good thing.

Maggie Stiefvater:
Image of Maggie Stiefvater
All of my life decisions have been based around my inability to be gainfully employed. Talking to yourself, staring into space, and coming to work in your pajamas are frowned upon when you're a waitress, calligraphy instructor, or technical editor (all of which I've tried), but are highly prized traits in novelists, musicians, and artists (I've made my living as one of these since I was 22).
I now live an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia, with my charmingly straight-laced husband, two small kids, two neurotic dogs who fart recreationally, and a 1973 Camaro named Loki.
I'm an avid reader, an award-winning colored pencil artist, and play several musical instruments, including the Celtic harp, the piano, and the bagpipes.