Opening. “It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.”
My usual method for writing reviews is to come up with a list of bullet points about the book, which I then build into paragraphs. When I finished writing up my list for The Scorpio Races, I looked at it and went, “Hmm. I use the word love quite a lot.” And that is because I LOVE THIS BOOK.
So, in case you don’t know much about it, here’s a brief explanation. Puck Connolly and Sean Kendrick grew up on the island of Thisby, where every November first, the men and boys race the capall uisce–beautiful deadly water horses–to win the Scorpio Race. Sean has won the last four years. Puck, however, decides to ride in the races, on her own pony, to win the money to save her house.
I kind of loathe plot summaries, so I’ll just say that this doesn’t do the book justice at all.
It’s told in alternate narration, which I’ve come to expect from Maggie Stiefvater. I really loved Puck’s voice–she’s both fierce and tender and I found her entirely believable. She’s the kind of person I’d be proud to know. If she existed in real life, that is. Sean is fascinating, partly because his narration is full of words–he’s the one that really captures the boiling excitement of the races for me–while to Puck he’s silent.
In my opinion, some of the best books make you feel like you can do things you can’t. When I read The Blue Sword, for instance, I think I could ride in a laprun trial. (HAH!) In this case, the race was so real to me, and the capall uisce, that I felt not only that I was riding with Puck and Sean, but that I could ride in it myself. Since I’ve been on a horse about twice in my whole life, this is obviously not true, but for the space of those pages, I could.
One of my very favorite things about this book is the way the relationship between Sean and Puck unfolds. The sort of culmination of it, in my opinion, is Puck’s exchange with Benjamin Malvern at the end of the book. It made me laugh, but it was also exactly the right note to hit. I love the slow blossoming romances much more than the Insta-attraction (just add water!) ones that seem to be the norm at the moment. I trust that Sean and Puck will last, because they know each other. And besides, they make me feel all gooey.
Another thing that I really appreciated was the way the conflict was set up and resolved. I’m not talking about Mutt Malvern here, but rather that central question that haunts the race scene. Both Sean and Puck have to win this race, while at the same time, they want the other to win. I trusted the way this problem was solved.
Of course, this is also a book about family, and what you do when your family leaves, or when they betray you. I like it when YA deals with that, helpfully messing up that convenient mg/YA marker of family vs. romance. Besides, families are something we live with our whole life, and pretending otherwise is silly.
I’m not sure I’ve given a good sense of just how much I enjoyed this book–the story, the characters, the writing. But I will certainly agree with Maggie Stiefvater herself. This is her best book yet. It’s beautiful, and you should definitely read it.
Book source: public library (but going on my wishlist)
Book information: Scholastic, 2011; YA (though I think upper mg would like it too)