The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater

Every year, dozens of aspiring winners of the Scorpio races wait for their mounts to wash up from the beach. The water horses, or cappaill uisce, are not just ordinary horses, despite the fact that they come from the sea. The carnivorous creatures are always hungry, and their would-be riders are kept on their toes as they try to tame the wild horses that crave the taste of flesh and the sea. The dangerous beasts are more brute than horse; many riders are killed each year. By teeth, or by the water, it makes no difference to the untamable horses.

Told from two different characters, returning champion Sean Kenndrick and rookie (and the only female) Puck Connolly, battle the sea, their own horses, other rider’s horses and the other riders, are each motivated to win. But so is everyone else. Both with everything to work for, and everything to lose. But only one person can win the Scorpio Races.

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I’m having a hard time summarizing what I thought of this book. I am very torn. Parts of it were stunning and moving, and parts of it weren’t written very well.

The water horses were the best part of the story. What bothers me most about the story is that I didn’t think of it first! Their vicious nature is easy to imagine the way it is described, but the pull of them and Sean’s connection with them is also understandable as well.

The main character, Puck, is not very compelling. I suppose her intentions are all right, but seriously, she could have thought of something else to make money, right? This seems like the writers flaw; she really, really wanted to write about a girl, and couldn’t just drop it.

It bothers me that no one argued Puck’s point about not riding a water horse. I hope that isn’t a spoiler, but it actually makes me angry. The riders are supposed to ride water horses, that is part of the race. And she doesn’t; her horse is an ordinary island pony. Her own tension and suspense could have doubled and made the book more interesting.

Her emotions were constantly explained, which kind of bothered me as well. And they changed often; she is irratable in one paragraph, and then guilty the next. I suppose that is fine, but I don’t like how she had to be explained. It isn’t very believable when she has to tell you what she is feeling; it doesn’t make you feel like you are inside her head.

Now Sean on the other hand….wow. He has to be one of the deepest and best character’s I’ve ever read about. He is so mysterious, the mystery about him and the magic he works on the water horses is never explained. That might have bugged me, but that is what keeps it mysterious. He is so much more interesting than Puck, and what he does, and what he understands, and the way he understands it really makes him unforgettable. His passion for the water, and the monsters it spits up, and his relationship with his own water horse who sometimes really just wants to eat him is incredible.

Each chapter switches back and forth between Sean and Puck (which is really annoying, because I really just wanted to hear about one or the other), but the chapters in which Sean narrates are the best. The writing just seems better.

And the romance was annoying. Although, if I were Puck, I would have fallen for Sean. What’s not to like? So I guess it makes enough sense.

The ending was only okay. It was a bit too happily-ever-after for me, although it was sweet. Several things weren’t wrapped up, but I guess I can forgive the writer. You don’t need to like horses to like this book.

Overall: 4/5

Violence: 6/10 (I mean, they are flesh-eating water horses with teeth like knives. Some descriptions of the wounds and deaths are gross)

Language: 5/10 (Mild to medium bad words throughout, and quite a few crude comments)

Innapropriateness/Romance: 4/10 (The actual romance wasn’t too innapropriate, but the crude comments also falls under this section)

Audience: Ages 12 and up

 

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