Jillian -always aspiring-'s Reviews > The Scorpio Races

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
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Jul 16, 15

bookshelves: 2011-reads, writer-crush, best-endings, made-me-cry, exceeded-my-expectations, could-have-been-better, writing-to-which-i-aspire, prose-envy
Recommended for: Those who enjoy twists on familiar legends (such as water horses)
Read from October 13 to 14, 2011, read count: 1

The capaill uisce plunged down the sand, skirmishing and bucking, shaking the sea form out of their manes and the Atlantic from their hooves. They screamed back to the others still in the water, high wails that raised the hair on my arms. They were swift and deadly, savage and beautiful. The horses were giants, at once the ocean and the island, and that was when I loved them.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater is a difficult novel to describe: it is one-part race novel, one-part horse appreciation tale, and one-part coming-of-age journey with dashes of horror and magic and just a tiny pinch of romance. It has all the materials to be a great and unforgettable tale...but somehow the pieces never come together quite exactly as it feels they should.

Every November, the small island of Thisby becomes a tourist trap as curious people travel to see a daring spectacle: the Scorpio Races, an event in which people ride upon capaill uisce, deadly water horses with bloodthirsty habits and madness when faced with the place of their origins, the ocean. No one is ever guaranteed to walk away from the race alive; death has become an all too common occurrence among these island folk.

It's such an intriguing, exciting concept...but honestly the horrific outcomes involving the water horses are only a small part of this novel. The true core of the story is much more simple and common yet nonetheless powerful: ties to family, home, animals, and dreams are the real driving forces of what make this story less of a letdown and more of a win. Though the story has flaws and pacing issues, it does have a lot of charm with its focus on the ties that bind.
However, that same slice-of-life focus is also one of the novel's most noticeable flaws: the story and leave long stretches of time with just build-up and development. Some readers may come away feeling a bit cheated because the title does not quite live up to its promise with the word "races". Instead of offering a war cry when it came to the main event, The Scorpio Races gives whispers and mutters. For me, the meaningful end to the tale more than made up for its beginning blunders and missteps, but I know that others may not end up feeling the same.

Overall, I found The Scorpio Races to be a novel that rather subverted its own promise. I came into the story expecting a tale of horror and gore; instead, I received a thought-provoking look into the life of a small island bound to tradition and magic. In the end, I was happy with the exchange. I can only hope that other readers will have a similar reading experience.
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Reading Progress

10/13/2011 page 16
4.0% "Eh. Not too keen on either POV yet, so we'll see how this goes..."
10/13/2011 page 61
15.0% "I'm sorry to say this, but Puck already annoys me because her rash decision reeks of blatant, ignorant stupidity. Honestly, couldn't she have entered into the race any other way than this?"
10/14/2011 page 116
28.0% "I think this is going to be one of those reads where I love the idea but the execution leaves me a bit cold..."

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Janie McMahan how'd u get it before the release date? I'm dying to read this one

Angela I'm going to be typing up my review in the next day (I hope!), so I look forward to comparing our takes on this once we both have reviews done. I also gave it four stars and would have classified it in many of the categories you did (writer crush, almost favorites, best endings). But, also like you, it didn't grab me as much as I had hoped, except toward the end.

message 3: by Angela (last edited Oct 24, 2011 05:59AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Angela @Jillian: Just read your review! It does seem we had a similar opinion on this one, though I felt a bit more favorably toward it. I couldn't fault the writing or the story itself; it just didn't grab me as much as I had hoped.

(view spoiler)

C.a.c. I also expected a "tale of horror and gore" when I first picked up the book. It turns out that it was more about the events leading up to the races. Although the race was in the book and was exciting, I felt like the book concentrated most on what led up to them and the challenges Puck and Sean faced.

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