Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Published:  October 18, 2011
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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 choice. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.


Maggie Stiefvater said this was her favorite book of hers that she's written. I wanted to love it so so badly like I did with all The Raven Boys books but I didn't and I feel terrible about it. Don't get me wrong though, Maggie's writing is still beautiful and the way she uses her words still amazes me. I don't dog-ear pages but I do stick little tabs in where my favorite quotes in books are. There are so many tabs in this book because as always, Maggie Stiefvater knows how to use all the words to their best potential.

It's the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.
- Sean, page 1

The book is set on the fairly secluded island of Thisby. Every year in October riders sign up to join in on the deadly Scorpio Races where they will ride a water horse that will either get them to the finish line or lead them to a very gruesome death. One of the things that I liked about The Raven Boys that also applies to The Scorpio Races is that even though the books are written very factually - almost as if they were contemporary or historical novels - there's an undercurrent of magic that eventually makes itself known to the reader. In The Scorpio Races, it's never flat out explained what the water horses or capaill uisce are. Rather, it's left for the reader to infer as they progress through the novel. At first, this was one of the things that confused me. All I knew was that they were water horses who generally killed those they came across. It wasn't until I actually Googled it that I realized they were basically a kelpie.

Even though I'm only giving this book 3.5 stars, there were actually quite a few things that I liked about it. First, Thisby itself. Nowhere in the book does it give you a time period for when the novel is set which actually adds to the magic and mystery that is Thisby. But, they way I read it, Thisby felt like it was a Scottish countryside in the early 1900s-1920s. (I only say Scottish because when I Googled, "each uisce" was the term for water horses in Scottish folklore.) Even though Thisby is a fairly dangerous place to live, it actually sounded quite beautiful. The pages are filled with Thisby's salt breezes and riotous storms and hills covered with sheep and cliffs overlooking the water. As you're reading, you can almost smell the cinnamon scents from Palsson's bakery and the horse and dirt scent of the Malvern stables. I can understand Puck's sentiment when she says, "It's like my heart or something" when she's trying to explain how she feels about the island.

The characters were also pretty amazing. Aside from our main characters of Puck and Sean, every person that we encounter in this book is unique. That's something that Maggie Stiefvater is great at creating. There's no way at all that you can confuse one character for another in her books because their personalities are just so diverse and well-formed. If you've ever watched the show Gilmore Girls, you'd have a basic idea of what the characters were like in this book. They ranged from everything from quirky to terrible. Dory Maud had to be one of my favorite townsfolk. Together with her sister, Elizabeth, they ran a quirky little antiques shop that Puck says smelled always of butter in a pan. George Holly, a Gatsby-ish buyer from America who had come to Thisby for the races and to purchase horses, was another great character just because he understood the way Sean loved and cared for horses almost more than he did for people. Even the Malverns who were despicable at best were great to read just because they were written so well that hating them seemed logical. And, of course, there's Puck and Sean - both outsiders in the eyes of the town and both racing to save something that they love dearly.

"It's about wanting," I say after some considering. "The tourists always seem to want something. On Thisby, it's less about wanting, and more about being."
-Puck, Page 213

Now, the reason that I didn't like this book is because while the writing and the characters were great, it just took so sooooo long for anything to happen. So long that, for me, even the greatness of the characters weren't really even holding my interest anymore. I understand that the book isn't really even about the Scorpio Races; it's about wanting and how getting what you want comes at certain costs and not always in the way you'd expect. But, because it took so long for anything to happen, the moral didn't impact me the way it probably should have. There was just so much build up and not enough relevant action in between. For the most part, the characters wander in and out of the pages, have conversations, then leave. It also didn't help that Sean and Puck had alternating viewpoints that sounded similar enough that the only reason I could tell them apart was from who they were talking to. I just felt emotionally detached for the greater part of reading this. I didn't even feel anything when Puck stood up for herself in front of the town and vowed to race even though women never raced before. In fact, the only time I really felt something was when I thought Puffin the cat died and Puffin was only mentioned for maybe all of three and a half out of more than four hundred pages.

Maybe I'll read this again at some point. I feel like if I reread it when I'm in a mind frame to be a little more analytical about what I'm reading rather than just reading for fun, I'd get more out of it. I'm sticking to my rating for now though. However, I do really feel the need to bake a November cake. There's a recipe at the back of my copy and it sounds delicious.

Have you read The Scorpio Races? If so, do tell me your thoughts and if you liked it or not. 
There's talk about turning this into a movie too - yay or neigh? Pun intended. 
Also, have you tried baking a November cake??

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