While I have to say that I appreciated the versatility of the author's style - and especially the way he would nod to the reader as they followed his...moreWhile I have to say that I appreciated the versatility of the author's style - and especially the way he would nod to the reader as they followed his tales forward and backward through time - overall this book was not a fun, exciting, or stimulating read for me. Honestly, It was a chore to slog through. And I am a bit surprised that so many of my Goodreads friends, and especially my REAL-life friends thought so highly of it. It was okay, but only just.
Maybe this is a case of me not being in the right "place" or the right "time" or the right "mood" for this book. It happens... "I suggest that the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready..."
Honestly? I'm glad it's over.
*wait* you know, I really liked the escape-from-the-retirement-home and Sonmi parts. For the record...(less)
Honestly: I feel a really kind of gypped by the ending, lack of revelation, and unresolved conflict of this book. But, the love story was adorbs. And...moreHonestly: I feel a really kind of gypped by the ending, lack of revelation, and unresolved conflict of this book. But, the love story was adorbs. And the premise (waking up in a different body every day) lead to a masterful characterizations, interesting tensions, and especially - through-the-roof-type reader anticipation!
Finally, it was BIZARRE-O to read my name on every other page. Now I know how Jessicas and Sarahs and Emilys feel when they read their name everywhere - hey, do you ever feel jarred, like you could almost hear someone else saying your name while you were reading? Heebies.
This is my first full-length David Levithan book (he wrote 1/2 of Will Grayson, Will Grayson, so I only read 1/2 of a David Levithan book before, I guess) - but I think he creates really believable, heart-wrenching, thoughtful characters. More, please!(less)
Killer horses! Death and blood! People dying as they compete in a deadly race! Were you expecting an action-flick? Because you might need to calm down...moreKiller horses! Death and blood! People dying as they compete in a deadly race! Were you expecting an action-flick? Because you might need to calm down for a sec before you can enjoy The Scorpio Races.
Well, I just LOVED this book! High 4 Stars - more like 4.5. It was very well-written - it reads more like a work of literary fiction than a paranormal YA. The setting and characterization are key in this book; the romantic elements evolve slowly and organically (never rushed or overwrought); the book has several moments of real tenderness that are are hard to find in YA Romance, where relationship-building is far less subtle than real-life love ever is.
This book is "supposed to" be about a race to the death on man-eating horses. Some people are comparing it to The Hunger Games, most likely because of the danger and the competitive element. But, this book is nothing like The Hunger Games. Readers expecting a fast-paced romp on a killer horse are bound to be disappointed by the book if it's marketed this way. This is actually, for the most part, a quiet and thoughtful book with believable characters and an absolutely gorgeous setting. The small-town feel of the island, and of the villagers who live there, are all well-drawn and well-crafted by Stiefvater. It is a book about "place," one's place in the world and the freedoms one seeks to come of age.
The Scorpio Races is a story told in alternating point-of-views: Puck Connolly's and Sean Kendrick's. I have to say that it took some time to "get to know" Puck, the female lead - even in a first-person present tense! Eventually, Puck becomes a good female lead, in my opinion - she is challenging and independent, and ultimately gets the characterization we were hoping for in the later chapters of the book.
But, the character of Sean was really the masterpiece of this work. Through Sean's POV the setting of the island really comes into being, so much so that it is like a character in it's own right. His relationship with the horses, and particularly Corr, are the strongest in the book. Seriously, tears, guys. Tears.
The minor characters, like Mutt Malvern (guy with something to prove) and Dory Maude (the female avuncular character), are also really well done. The sons of fishermen, the mainland tourists - everyone was drawn pitch-perfectly. ------------------------------ I dropped a star for: Pacing: it took a quite a few pages to "get into" the book, and to really flesh the Puck's character out. I wasn't sure that the first-person present tense was the best choice for this type of pacing and plotting. Something about the book reeks of nostalgia - why contradict that tone with the first-person present tense, when a more reflective one could've worked better? Could it be that the FPPT made the book drag a bit because there was more reflection than action? Dunno - maybe.
The Capall Uisce: I could've used more myth-building here, because I had a hard time wrapping my head around these water-horses that primarily live in the sea, but who can be removed and broken-in and train alongside regular horses. For instance, if a horse was a carnivore, I thought to myself, it would have different teeth. And if it had different teeth, it would have a differently shaped skull. And if it had a differently shaped skull, it wouldn't even look like a horse.
I swayed back and forth between trying to imagine a realistic water-mammal and a fantastic element. Something kept Stiefvater from a definitive position of the horses as magical, or at least magically-real, and I think it is possible that could've been better explained either way.
Unbelievable Motivations: Now, don't get me wrong - for the purpose of the story, I'm happy Puck is in the races. But, why did she sign up for them? Her motivation was very unclear - which would've been okay if the ambivalence was a plot-point, but it wasn't exactly. Puck's motivations are hinted at, but for the reader, they are never fully realized.
Also, (don't worry this isn't technically a spoiler, just a backstory tidbit) even though the dad was a fisherman and the "mom rarely went out on the boat" with him, the one day they go out on the boat together a capall uisce eats them both?!?! Hmmm! Very useful, Maggie Stiefvater, if you're trying to create ORPHANS. But, it reeks of convenience. ------------------------------ All in all, there is a timeless quality to The Scorpio Races which was surprising. There's radio - but no TV - which can align the setting somewhere in the early 20th century, but the reader never knows for sure - no, there's too much that may or may not be different from our own history, our own timeline, to categorize the setting so easily. Maybe it's just "island life"/"small-town" element, but in The Scorpio Races, rest of the world and it's technologies are inconsequential. We don't care about where/when we are, as readers, because we have fallen in love with this exquisite setting.
In a sense, things seem very "old-fashioned" in The Scorpio Races, but to the credit of the writer they are never "stale" or "old" always seeming "modern" rather than "historical." I like this, because unlike a contemp-YA book wherein the protagonist might text her BF "OMG I H8 My Mom TTYL" rendering the book completely outdated and useless in five years (if it isn't already), The Scorpio Races would've been a great book ten years ago, and will be a great book ten years from now - even after the PNR-craze is over (will it ever be over?) and they stop marketing this book for the same audience as Love Bites: The Fairywalker Academy Journals, and someone shelves it next to more thoughtful works of great stand-alone fiction like Jellicoe Road or The Bridge to Terebithia.
Finally, I am in love, love, love with Sean Kendrick. Almost to the point that I am annoyed with myself! I feel like a fourteen-year-old girl right now, even though I turned 30 three days ago. That's how big my book-crush is. Seriously. Sean Kendrick? Just read this book.
Finally-finally, it might go without saying, but Yikes! Beware of the injury and death of animals in this book. It'll make you sad-faced.(less)
I am really surprised at my own reaction to this book. I was expecting to be impressed - blown away, even, maybe. In other words - a lot of hype surro...moreI am really surprised at my own reaction to this book. I was expecting to be impressed - blown away, even, maybe. In other words - a lot of hype surrounds this book: youngest winner of the orange prize; comparisons to the magical-realism of Marquez, et al.; allegedly the best debut novel in the recent history of debut novels...
Yeah, well... It was boring as hell. I actually said "yeah, blah, blah, blah" out loud while reading this thing. Please don't get me wrong - it is meticulously written. It is careful, deliberate, MFA-ish, almost absolute in its perfection of sentences. The descriptions and imagery are beautiful...its the characterization that was lacking for me.
Sure, I can read all about "sun-smeared windows," or about the "determined way the blue paint clung to the shutters..." But I can only care about what I'm reading when you give me a reason to, Tea Obreht. For instance, the blue-paint-sentence was on a page that also featured dialogue, and three different characters, all in a first-person narrative voice. Yet, we've got a problem here...because the blue paint clinging to shutters is the most interesting thing happening on that page.
In other words - the narrative voice (the main character, on the whole) is one of the things dragged this book down for me. Natalia, our protagonist, was a character who had recently lost a loved one - she is actually described as "grief-stricken" - and yet, she is flat, unfeeling, vague, shapeless, a shadow: the opposite of a disembodied narrative voice - she was almost voiceless, a vessel letting the other character's voices speak through her and hold up her amorphous form because Obreht's narrative failed to hold the character up on her own.
It would be one thing if this was a literary device (maybe it was intended to be) - if Natalia was a personality-less vessel telling the stories and myths and legends of her war-torn country. I mean, it is a novel about legacy, the power of storytelling to immortalize mere mortals, shared mythology, and the way that identity is shaped by personal narrative - the stories we tell ourselves to define who we think we are. <-- I saw what you were doing there, Obreht! I think I got it.
I just wish that there was more feeling! Depth. Grief. Pain. I wish the characters had some heart, some hunger, some anger, a sex-drive...ANYTHING! Instead, the two main characters on whom the story is built - Grandfather and Natalia - are so goddamn flat and boring! You wanna talk about the "deathless man"? What about the "personality-less" characters? Heartless. Witless. Cock-less. Nary a personality-flaw in sight! Even family secrets, once unearthed, were boring.
Only the tertiary characters, and the titular character (The Tiger's Wife, a secondary character) were drawn with any kind of charm, complexity, or... thought, really. I got the feeling that the author was perhaps using Natalia as a kind of Mary-Sue - a stand-in that she personally "knew" so well she forgot to give it personality at all.
But, you know, even though I didn't enjoy this book I think this author is off to a great start. Some people really loved the shit out of it. And some of the stuff about the kooky villagers was really, really good.
Think about it: she's got her subtle, semi-autobiographical, deep-thoughts-about-the-nature-of-life-and-death debut novel out of the way! And not only was it good enough to publish, it was good enough to shower with awards! Honestly, the good writing is there - Obreht just needs to find her voice and stop stifling it with such carefully-rendered prose about paint on the wall (Paint! On. The. Wall).(less)
The fun action sequences in this book almost make up for how absolutely stupid the premise of "the factions" is... But, they don't really make up for...moreThe fun action sequences in this book almost make up for how absolutely stupid the premise of "the factions" is... But, they don't really make up for how dumb (willfully ignorant?) the protagonist is. She really annoyed me... give YA readers some credit: they don't have to be five steps ahead of the protagonist all the time to feel smart.
All said and done, though - I will continue the series and hope it gets better! Maybe Tris is done being so lame now that she's embraced her Divergence. :-)(less)