Review: ‘The Scorpio Races’ by Maggie Stiefvater

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.

Things I loved about The Scorpio Races (a list):

One: the writing. Stiefvater’s prose is magical and lyrical and (in this book at least) kind of old fashioned in a way that made me think this book was set last century, although I don’t think it’s ever confirmed explicitly. She is a master of her craft and I was in awe listening* to it.

* Yes, this was an audiobook listen for me, although I’m pretty sure I also own the paperback somewhere in this dusty TBR pile.

Two: the water horses. These fae horses from Scottish myth are all too real in the book: powerful, beautiful and deadly carnivores that are driven especially wild by the “Scorpio Sea”: the ocean at the time of year that the star sign is in effect. (This, of course, is apparently the perfect time to race them, because humans are silly.) Stiefvater’s water horses are slightly magical — they have the power to lull riders into complacency on their backs, to make them more vulnerable — and they are susceptible to iron and other fae-binding magics.

Three: the magics. This book is magical realism. The magic isn’t flashy; it’s quiet ritual, spit and blood. And maybe it isn’t magic at all but science and home truths. Who knows?

Four: the characters. With the book written in a dual POV, we were able to see inside both Sean and Puck in a way that made both of them — on the surface, rather difficult to like — complex and loveable. The romance between them is subtle and beautiful and I think it takes them both, headstrong and certain as they are, by surprise. It’s also utterly clean; the most they exchange is a kiss. I loved it, and them.

Five: the stories. In many ways, this is a slow story — it’s not all horse chases (like car chases, but on … well, you know). There’s a lot of time given to the various relationships: Puck and her brothers, Sean and his employer, the humans and their horses. But there was definitely enough to keep me going.

Recommended for: lovers of the fae at their gritty, bloody best; fans of young adult books; lovers of gorgeous prose.



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