Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio Races

Review from Good Reads:

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 spent the first half of this book wanting to like it and the second half actually really liking it.

When I first read “water horses” in the summary, I was picturing seahorses…


…But that’s obviously wrong. They are kind of sea monsters that look like horses that live in the ocean and occasionally come onto the island of Thisby where they are either captured and trained to race or go on a murderous rampage. They are called capaill uisce (which is apparently a real legend, but Stiefvater takes some liberties with it). They mostly come to shore in October and the race day is November 1st (my birthday, by the way). If you can keep your water horse from dragging you out to sea or from eating the other horses during the race, you may live through it and maybe even win. Despite their treachery, most people from the island love them.

Sean Kendrick (oh, Sean Kendrick) has a special ability to work with the capaill uisce. He saw his father die in the Scorpio Race, but has gone on to run in it and win four years in a row. Kate “Puck” Connolley has never attended the race and her parents were killed by the water horses, but has decided to enter to help her family.

OK, let’s stop here to where I have issues.

-First off, capaill uisce? Couldn’t an easier name be used? It’s over ten chapters in before a pronunciation is given – “Coppie Ooshka”. But at the end of the book in the Author’s Note she says it’s pronounced “CAPple ISHka.” It’s maddening.

-Why is Kate’s nickname Puck? This is never addressed.

-Puck’s reason for entering the race is kind of dumb. Her older brother, Gabe, is leaving the island and she tries to buy a few more weeks before he goes by entering the race. He still plans on going after. Eventually, though, the idea of prize money becomes a necessity, so I can overlook the original reason.

-Gabe. I wanted to like him. Or at least understand him. I didn’t really get either. He doesn’t have much a reason for leaving the island and he has seemingly no care that he’s leaving his younger sister and brother to fend for themselves. And it’s hinted at that he was having an affair with his friend’s mother, but nothing is confirmed or even mentioned again after the original incident.

-Sean Kendrick (who is almost always referred to by both first and last name) is a bit of a mystery. Though the story is told through dual 1st person POV, we never get to know Sean as well as we do Puck. Puck thinks once that Sean Kendrick uses one word when others use five or six and that’s how his chapters seemed. He loves the island and sea horses – most especially Corr, who is basically his best friend. He wants to be able to buy Corr off his boss, but his boss is a jerk.

I was annoyed enough by the things mentioned above, as well as the slow-pace, that I was not enjoying the book. Somewhere around half way through, though, I started to get into it. I think it’s because Sean Kendrick and Puck finally started interacting and the events surrounding the race began to pick up the pace of the story.

One thing Maggie Stiefvater does really well is romance. By that I mean that she tells a story that has romantic elements, without it being a romance. Much like Gansey and Blue in The Raven Boys series, Puck and Sean Kendrick’s relationship is a subtle slow build and Stiefvater manages to make even the smallest touch or briefest word significant and intense. But this never overshadows the actual story going on around them.

Overall, I did end up enjoying The Scorpio Races. It was beautifully written with two strong and likable character leads. It’s also a stand alone book, which is something I’ve come to appreciate.

Rating (out of 5):
Plot: 3
Characters: 4
Readability: 3.5
Enjoyability: 4
Overall Average:  3.625 stars

7 thoughts on “Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

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