Jillian -always aspiring-
Jul 16, 15
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.