Kogiopsis's Reviews > The Scorpio Races

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Aug 09, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: galleys, reviewed, not-for-the-sensitive
Read from August 09 to 11, 2011

Edit: I feel it worth nothing that this is my 250th Goodreads review. Yay milestones!

This is the first time I've felt even a little guilty about not liking a galley. I didn't really enjoy this book, but I didn't hate it enough not to care, and so here I am stuck in limbo, not really sure what to do with it.

The idea is absolutely fabulous. A race run on killer water horses? Yes, please. And there's the element of romance between two competitors, both with a reason they need to win, which just amps up the tension. It's like a less violent, more equine sort of Hunger Games, though no one is forced to participate. It should have been awesome.

So, why wasn't it?

Well, for a start, the plot rested on a couple of too-neat coincidences. Things appear to have shifted on Thisby all at once for no good reason. Why is this the year when everything comes together? There was an opportunity for it all to be explained, and then it would have been fine, but since it wasn't addressed it bothered me all the way through. (view spoiler) I'll suspend my disbelief for the killer water horses, but not for such a series of coincidences

There's also the fact that, even now, I'm not sure where Thisby is or what time period this was set in. It was never made clear on either count, though I have theories. Thisby might well be off the coast of Ireland, but it could as easily be Canadian for all I know. And while it's important for books to steer clear of dating themselves too neatly, it would be nice to get a sense of time. I went back and forth from thinking this story was supposed to take place in modern times to wondering if maybe it was happening in the twenties or earlier. After all, wouldn't there be television cameras there for the races if it happened now, instead of newspaper reporters with big flashbulbs?

Maybe it's supposed to feel timeless and universal, but what it came off as was loose and ungrounded.

As for the plot, well, it's really nothing to speak of. No, honestly. You'd think a book titled The Scorpio Races would take place mostly during said races, right? And you'd be wrong. The race gets one chapter - ten pages - and that's it. The rest of the book is about getting ready for the races and training and Puck and Sean getting to know each other courtesy of some more coincidences and all sorts of extraneous things that weren't the least bit necessary. I was bored and frustrated with more than half of this book. Things happen for silly reasons, or for no good reason at all, and often they have nothing to do with the plot whatsoever. (view spoiler)

Wherever authors are learning that it's okay to spend 75% of their books without a real plot or any real tension, they need to stop. This is not okay. And if you absolutely must shy around the real plot, make sure you have enough subplots to keep things interesting until you get to the main event, okay?

If you've read a Stiefvater book before, you know that she has a very distinctive, elaborate writing style, and frankly the pacing might not have been a problem without that. Yes, her words are pretty, sometimes, though it is difficult to discern the two protagonists' narrations because they sound so similar. But her style is slow going, at least for this reader. It needs a strong plot and lots of tension to carry it, and that's not here. Because nothing is happening for the longest time, phrases that might seem lovely in another context feel overwrought and bloated, and that's a real shame.

The protagonists, Puck and Sean, grew on me even as they grew on each other, and that's probably what saved this book from getting two stars. There's a lovely little 'training montage' type chapter that I really enjoyed, even if it was brief, because the relationship between them is a sweet and beautiful thing and founded on mutual respect and understanding. I'm glad that they improved over the course of the book, too, because there was a point when I cared more about the barn cat than I did about Puck.

By the end of the book, I was really quite happy with Puck. Near the beginning, though, she was the primary source of frustration. You see, in a race of killer horses, she's riding an ordinary mare. Words cannot express how much this bothered me. First off, it's cruel to her mare, who spends a lot of her time being terrified and trembling. Second, it saps some of the tension from the race. As a reader, I need to believe that the conclusion is going to be close and dramatic, in particular between the two main characters. Even after training, there was no doubt in my mind that Sean and his water horse, Corr, could have beat Puck and her mount, Dove, without really trying. The ending was a bit more satisfying than I expected given that, but the anticipation still bothered me through most of the book.

The best thing about this book, after the basic idea of it, is that there will probably not be a sequel. It's complete in and of itself, and thank goodness; that idea, while compelling and awesome, is not good enough to carry more than one novel.

Oh, and one last thing: far, far too many of the supporting cast felt two-dimensional and rigid. I almost forgot to mention that.
49 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Scorpio Races.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

08/09/2011 page 144
35.0% "For some reason, I'm really not liking this, which makes me kind of sad. Partly, I think, it's because I feel the story would be much stronger if Puck and Sean switched genders. Don't ask me why; it just seems that way."
08/10/2011 page 208
50.0% "I get frustrated with books, like this or The Hunger Games, which derive their titles from a certain event and then spend most of the book not showing said event." 3 comments
08/10/2011 page 226
54.0% "It seems that at least 3/4 of the people on this island are assholes. ARRRRGH."
08/10/2011 page 236
57.0% "It does not bode well that I would rather have seen Puck or one of her brothers get eaten by the capall uisce in the cat's place. Poor kitty didn't deserve that at all. Gabe, on the other hand, did. And has no right to be the hero of the hour now."
08/10/2011 page 244
59.0% "NO, GABE. NOT OKAY. You don't leave your only family in such a shitty situation because you hate where you're living. THEY ARE YOUR SIBLINGS. AND YOU ARE A JACKASS."
08/10/2011 page 254
61.0% "Kitty! Okay, happy ending. Book can be done now. The cat is really the only character I care about."
08/10/2011 page 280
67.0% "Tired of characters with highly coincidental motivations. Oh, so all this just happened to occur in the same year? No, just no. Suspension of disbelief only goes so far, especially when I still have no idea a) what time period this is taking place in, though I'm guessing modern day or something close, and b) where in the world Thisby actually is."
08/10/2011 page 284
68.0% "As a non-religious person, I'm not really sure how I feel about how religion is portrayed in this book. Someone else will have to make the call. But it does feel a bit off to me, I'll say that."
08/11/2011 page 351
84.0% "Something is actually sort of happening now and things are getting better, but Mutt Malvern is still a one-dimensional asshole and he needs to die for the ending of this book to be satisfying."
04/14/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-18)

dateUp arrow    newest »

Imo (Omnom Books) You're so lucky! How did you manage to get a copy?

Kogiopsis I'm part of a teen group at my library, and we get sent galleys for review. I'm surprised we got this one, actually, given that Stiefvater has become a pretty big name and doesn't really need much hype to sell well.

Kogiopsis Oh, believe me, so am I. It's an interesting reading experience.

message 15: by Cindy (new) - added it

Cindy I am quite jelly of the fact that your library has an awesome teen program like that...

Awaiting your review:).

Kogiopsis It's addicting and awesome and we get to keep some of the galleys after they've come out.

Sometime I will brag about going to ALA's Midwinter Conference and coming home with eighty free books, too, again through that group.

But now I have a review to write.

message 13: by Lora (new) - added it

Lora I hope I like this more than you, Anila.

Great review, though:)

message 12: by P. (new)

P. "The best thing about this book, after the basic idea of it, is that there will probably not be a sequel. It's complete in and of itself, and thank goodness; that idea, while compelling and awesome, is not good enough to carry more than one novel."

You absolutely, positively sure about that? It's always one book, and then suddenly becomes three... or four... or five...

Anyways, great review!

Kogiopsis I'm pretty sure. Or at least my fingers are crossed.

message 10: by P. (new)

P. 250th review? Congrats, that's a lot!

I've ... still got a loooong way to go.

Kogiopsis Haha, so you do, but you can make it!

And thank you.

message 8: by Nalnac (new) - added it

Nalnac Wow. The best review I have read for this book so far. I haven't read this and I don't think I will. In your words I recognize most of my frustration for other MS books (like Linger and Forever..).
Congrats on your 250th review!! Looking forward to read more from you :)

Wendy Darling Totally agree--great concept, faulty execution. :/ Oh, well.

Charlie I completely agree with this review. It was such a struggle to read and it took me a lot longer than usual. (I also agree with caring more about the cat than the people!)The fact that I couldn't work out what time period it was drove me mad as well. Great review.

Jeannel Good review. Another thing that bothered me was that Puck seemed to be the only girl/woman on the island under 30.

C.a.c. Congratulations on your 250th review! I can easily see where you are coming from, but, personally, I didn't feel like the "coincidences" were much of an issue. Also, I think that the book was written more to be about the events leading up to the Scorpio Races than the Scorpio Races themselves.

Kogiopsis IMO both of those things are highly subjective - the coincidence thing is no more or less than a matter of personal taste. I prefer plots which rest more firmly on logical chains of events than this did; that doesn't mean others have to share that preference.
As far as the book being written more about the events leading up to the races, that's obvious now as I've read it, but there is nothing in the synopsis to suggest that the races would be such a minor aspect, and indeed they're the major factor on which it's being marketed. I suppose this is, in some respect, more the publisher's fault than Stiefvater's; while I understand wanting to capitalize on the strength of the concept, it misrepresented the book and left me feeling like I had been promised and then denied more action and adventure.

Katie Great review, said everything I felt except better. The time period thing drove me nuts. Also on the note of wondering why things happen, what was up with Gabe and Peg in the kitchen or Brian having a crush on Puck and then just disappearing for the rest of the story and why kill Tommy?! And did I just miss the explanation where all these horse whisperer techniques (or anything besides "they just do" for any questions about the magic/horses) are explained

message 1: by C4l (new) - rated it 4 stars

C4l just wanted to point out (concerning the whole coincidences thing) that while Gabe's mainland idea was out of the blue, Sean only got the guts/idea to demand Cor because of Puck's influence

back to top