What I’m Reading Now: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. Except I lied, I’m not reading it – I’m listening to it on my car rides to and from the library. Which is fun, but occasionally results in me sitting in my parked car waiting for something exciting to happen when I should be at work or cooking dinner or something. Oops.
What’s It About (Jacket Description): 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.
Do I Like It: Absolutely, although my premonitions of doom are starting to detract from the enjoyment…
Thoughts: The Scorpio Races is not quite like anything I’ve ever read before, and in this case that’s definitely a good thing. Don’t be fooled by the description – this is not a book that is overly concerned with romance, and is much more intense than I was expecting from a horse race book. The heart of this book is not, despite their outstanding depth and characterization, Puck or Sean. The heart of this book is the island they live on, Thisby, and the terrifying predatory monsters that are the water horses. I didn’t expect it when I started reading, but now, over halfway through, I find the water horses terrifying. In fact, last time I was in my car after parking – in the dark – listening to a tense and suspenseful scene with a water horse, I literally jumped (from a seated position!) when another car drove past because I was so startled (and, I admit, a little scared). I was that wound up and on-edge. But the water horses are not all monster – they are fascinating and beautiful and even, at least some of them, worthy of affection. This blend of horror and wonder is what makes the water horses so compelling.
The island of Thisby is much – much – less flashy than the water horses who populate the seas around it. Thisby is tiny, damp, harsh, and most of it smells like fish. The characters in the novel, primary and secondary, are mostly defined by their feelings about and relationship to the island. Sean and Puck love the island, though for different reasons, and this drives a lot of their characterization. But many don’t – so many characters in the novel are “lost to the mainland” that it begins to look like a kind of magic, or a kind of curse.
There is so much more I could say about this book (feel free to ask!) but I’ll keep it short(ish) for today. My takeaway so far is that the blend of excitement and action, characterization, mood, setting, magic, and harsh reality make The Scorpio Races a can’t-put-it-down (or can’t-stop-listening) read, despite the fact that I’m still pretty sure something awful is going to happen before the end.