The Scorpio Races

The Scorpio Racesby Maggie Stiefvater
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars

This book has a strange and wonderful magic. I’ve read it at least four times, and each time I come away with the mood, the atmosphere, some snapshots, but I can’t remember the details or the outcome. It’s weird, but immensely satisfying (probably a sentiment that Stiefvater would approve of in general). She is one of my favorite authors, and definitely my favorite in terms of delicious prose. I’ve read almost all of her books (still need to make it to the Shiver trilogy) and they continuously improve. But back to this book!

Set on a British/Scottish-esque island at an undetermined time period (though you can guess if you follow the world-building clues), Kate (Puck) Connally and Sean Kendrick are both set to ride in the island’s most popular and dangerous event: the Scorpio Races. Every November the islanders capture and train murderous water horses (capall uisce) to run in a race along the beach. Whoever can control their magical horse and reach the end first without it dragging them into the sea wins a hefty purse. Tourists come to bet, and the island’s fragile economy plods along.

Puck is the first girl to compete in the races—she has to worry about sexism and foul cheats as much as the killer horses. Sean Kendrick has won the deadly race four times, but this is the first time he could win the one thing he wants most in the world—his water horse, Corr.

This is a beautiful blend of slow island life and a grisly competition.  Emphasis on slow—traditional YA pacing is not present here, but if you settle in for a slower, moody experience you will not be disappointed.  The characters are both stubborn and emotive, and their single-minded determination to win the race and change their own lives is captivating. You’ll come away from this wanting your own horse, though perhaps one that doesn’t survive on red meat.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Scorpio Races is available on Goodreads and on Powell’s store website here. Powell’s has several locations in Oregon, and is one of the largest independent bookstores in the country. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • National Velvet by Enid Bagnold – I’m familiar with this story from the film, but this 1935 novel has stood the test of time. 14-year-old Velvet’s true love is horses, and when her piebald shows an aptitude for jumping, she decides to race in the Grand National steeplechase. Even if girls aren’t allowed to ride.
  • First Test (Protector of the Small #1) by Tamora Pierce – Keladry is the first girl to follow Alanna’s footsteps by training to be a knight. Unlike Alanna, everyone knows Kel is a girl–and they are not happy about it. This is a spunky series and a decent follow-up to the Song of the Lioness quartet.
  • Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman – This book has several titles, but the story is always the same. Eon is training to become a Dragoneye, one of twelve people chosen to share a dragon’s power and keep balance in the land. The only problem is that Eon is actually Eona–and she will die if her secret is revealed. See my review here.
  • The Black Stallion by Walter Farley – Alec and the fierce black stallion make a harrowing and dangerous journey to America together, but their journey has only begun. A classic horse-lover’s story from 1941.
  • Misty of Chincoteague – I read this probably fifteen times when I was a kid. The Phantom is the wildest horse in Virginia, and every year she escapes the roundup men. But this year she has a foal, and is herded across the channel for Pony Penning Day. Two children want to buy them both, but they don’t realize how it will change their lives. This is a sweet story that will make you want your own horse.

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. erinkbay
    Nov 24, 2015 @ 19:52:22

    Yay! This is so cool!!! Muahaha, I got to see you write this post and now it’s up! Yippee for the comps!!!!

    Liked by 1 person


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