the golden witch.'s Reviews > The Scorpio Races

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
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Oct 10, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2011, arc-galley, teenage-shennanigans, best-of-11, favorites-novels, magical-reality, faepunk, reviewed, own-print-arc
Read from October 03 to 07, 2011 — I own a copy

I seriously cannot rave about this book enough. You thought “Shiver” was good? Look out. I think that Stiefvater’s outdone herself in “The Scorpio Races”. There seems to be a lot of complaining on the blogosphere in terms of early reaction to the book with the main complaint of “nothing happens except in the last 2o pages!”. My friends, you are wrong. “The Scorpio Races” is not just about the races themselves, but what it takes to get to them, and how the emotional connection between the water horses and their riders all plays out.

First, Stiefvater’s gotten much better at worldbuilding. I think with “Shiver”, the lack of worldbuilding on the part of the wolves is one of the things that really kind of bothered me, even though I loved that book/series too. But she really pulls out all of the stops describing this bloody world of sea and salt, flesh and blood, man and fairy, rider and horse. Her sensory language techniques have definitely grown, and you can feel that she’s been to the places that finally made up the (fictional?) island of Thisby when she talks about them. The cliffs, especially – I think the scenes where we have our heroes on the cliffs were some of the most magical and emotional of the whole book. Everyone plugs into this world so very well, and no piece is left out of place and the fact that it felt so complete and so real just made me want to hug the book (and the author) and jump for joy after finishing it.

OH, and it’s a standalone. Another rarity in YA right now. But the fact that it feels complete, yet it leaves open room at the end for the reader to wonder what happens next is a very welcome thing indeed with heaps of duologies, trilogies, tetrologies, and longer series that are mostly making up the mainstream YA market.

Second, she’s really made the setting an antagonistic character. This is very difficult to do, but to make the backdrop one of the bad guys is possibly one of the hardest, given what she chose to work with. You have this small island, a small town, and these killer horses that are galloping up out of the water two months out of the year to kill people or get caught trying. Yet at the same time, there’s still magic there, and the horses are intensely charming, as are the townspeople themselves. We as the audience think that the backdrop may be indifferent for awhile, up until the storm right before the races. It’s then that we know that the island is indifferent to the suffering of the people and possibly more sympathetic to its horses (both fairy and animal) instead. Stiefvater did a fantastic job here, and it’s a good example to point to when you want to teach how to make setting a character within books.

There’s been a lot of negative reception of this book, as I said earlier, mostly because the actual races themselves don’t take place until the end of the book. Spoiler, I know, but it’s important you know that if you want to decide whether to invest your time or not. I highly recommend/encourage you to do so, because it’s definitely one of the most alluring, luxurious reads of the year. It’s also one of the most violent and realistic, even with the fact that we’re dealing with killer fairy horses. Because it’s not just about the horses and the races, but also because how everyone knows someone who’s lost a friend/sibling/parent/lover in some way to this yearly ritual. By creating this web of relationships that all points their way back to the island and the horses in the end, it really kind of knits the entire cast together and then knits it back into the setting-as-character. It’s gorgeous in every way this way – everyone is involved whether they like it or not because of this connection.

My verdict? Read it. This is definitely Stiefvater’s best work so far, and I can’t read to wait whatever she writes next. It’s also in my top ten for 2011. So when this hits shelves on October 18th (in North America – if you live elsewhere, check with your local bookstore), go pick up a copy or reserve it now at your local library and thank me later.

(posted to librarything, goodreads, shelfari, and
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Reading Progress

10/04/2011 page 91
22.0% "SO GOOD. I CAN'T EVEN."
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Rachel What a great review! I have a little under 100 pages left, and I love it so far. It is quite a beautiful story.

Chantelle (aka the Blogmonstar) Can't believe it took me this long to read, but wowzers. I loved this one, and am going to start Shiver in the next few days. Love the waterhorses myth and specifically, what Stiefvater did with it in this. Also loved the romance. No insta-love here.

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