Josiah's Reviews > The Scorpio Races

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
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Feb 26, 12

Read from February 18 to 24, 2012

"There are moments that you'll remember for the rest of your life and there are moments that you think you'll remember for the rest of your life, and it's not often they turn out to be the same moments."

The Scorpio Races, PP. 66-67

Maggie Stiefvater has been a very popular author, her Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy gaining for her a passionate following among adolescent readers. That wasn't my reason for choosing to read The Scorpio Races, though. My interest in this novel was based primarily off of what the description on the book jacket seemed to suggest, that this was going to be a thrilling adventure ride that might leave me breathless and could very possibly shake me to my core. Ultimately, these expectations were why I was quite surprised by The Scorpio Races. There are a few short action sequences to be found in the book, most notably after the horses finally line up and begin to run the title race; however, The Scorpio Races is predominantly a romantic and family drama, meandering down many of the familiar emotional avenues where real life eventually leads us all. The story takes us to these places with insight that often runs quite deep, and keen sensitivity to the perceptions of individual human experience. What can we do when the life we've always known begins changing all around us, demanding that we change with it or be trapped all alone in what is but a shadow of our past? Is it worth risking everything we have for the chance to keep things the same...even if we know that we can't really win, anyway?

On the island where they've lived separately all their lives, Puck (a nickname for Kate) and Sean approach the annual Scorpio Races with very different mindsets. Sean is the undisputed master of the water horse, training them for a living and helping to shape the personalities of many of the powerful specimens that are selected to run in the Scorpio Races each year. He has also won the race four times himself on the back of his personal steed, Corr, a water horse that he knows better than any other. Sean doesn't have much of a life apart from his training; so much of his energy has gone into the breaking of Corr that he hardly knows himself apart from their relationship, but the man he works for, Benjamin Malvern, has consistently refused to sell Corr to Sean. So Sean raises the stakes for this next running of the Scorpio Races, offering Malvern a deal that could finally make Corr his own. Just as likely, though, the deal could dash Sean's dreams permanently, and possibly even get him killed.

Puck is nowhere near the expert that Sean is at the racing of water horses, but the survival of her family as a cohesive unit depends on her ability to enter the Scorpio Races as an extreme underdog and somehow take home the title. Adding to Puck's handicap is the fact that she is on a regular horse while every other rider in the race will be mounted on a massive, powerful water horse, and it borders on the absurd to think that a normal horse could ever defeat such a super-strong, incredibly athletic creature.

The fortunes of both Sean and Puck change significantly, though, when they meet one day while trying out their rides on the sand where the big race is to be held. There's immediately a relational synergy between the two future opponents that neither one can deny, and as time passes and this feeling settles in completely, it begins to change the way that they each prepare for the race. But can even the assistance of the greatest rider in the history of the Scorpio Races give Puck a chance at taking home first prize and keeping her family together? And, in a dangerous sporting event where every year a number of participants are killed, will Sean and Puck both be able to handle it if the other doesn't make it to the finish line alive? What is there left to live for if the person who has become the future is suddenly...eliminated from that future?

Unexpected and uniquely philosophical, The Scorpio Races certainly took me by surprise, but I'm glad that I gave it a chance. Maggie Stiefvater is a very good writer who uses the virtually limitless potential of the English language to superb effect, changing up the flow of words with a wide variety of literary devices just like a good pitcher in baseball who knows how to mix up his pitch selection with fastballs, curveballs, sinkers, cutters and screwballs. I'll keep an eye out in the future to see if any of her other books catch my interest, and if they do, I'll consider giving them a try. All told, I might give the full two stars to The Scorpio Races.
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