The Scorpio Races
****** (6 out of 6 stars)
Cover - simple, with a reddish tint. The horse and rider running across the front says it all.
I hadn't read anything by Maggie Stiefvater until I received The Scorpio Races as a birthday gift from a friend. I just finished reading it the other day. It's one of those books that you keep thinking about off and on after you've read it. For me, it ranks right up there with my favorite authors' novels.
The Scorpio Races is about Puck and her quest to save keep her family together - by entering the races. Except the races have never had a female enter them and are all about these water horses. These violent, blood thirsty, magical water horses that take a lot to be controlled. Besides, Puck doesn't even own a water horse....or have the money to buy one.
The Scorpio Races is also about Sean and his quest to finally own the one water horse that feels like it's always been his - even though it's really owned by the island's rich man.
Inter-weaved with these two main story lines are a few other storylines. An American who has come to see the races, and becomes a sort of friend to a usually friendless Sean. The three sisters who think they are conning the American, Mr. Holley. The little brother of Puck (aka Kate) who has these little issues, seems very sensitive and also seems to have a bit of the sight. Puck's brother Gabe and his two friends who can't wait to leave the island. The Scorpio Races is also the story of Mutt Malvern - the island's rich man's son who is insanely, intensely jealous of Sean and the respect that his father has for Sean's horse sense. And of course, there's the water horses; those blood thirsty, violent, magical water horses who would just as soon pull a man to his watery death or eat a few sheep or people.
Sean and Puck have something in common - both of them have been orphaned by water horses, and both of them really NEED to win the races.
I loved reading this novel. The pov was present tense, first person and changed back and forth between Sean and Puck. It was a bittersweet thing; both Sean and Puck are lifelong residents of the island yet still barely knew each other - throughout the novel, they finally get to (grudgingly at first) get to know each other better. Not only do they begin to know each other, but they also begin to form a bit of an attachment. It's done very sweetly and not at all sudden - it isn't til the end of the novel that you know whether or not something is going on with them. And the ending is not a quite fairy-tale ending, but is still a good ending.
Sean has been spending the years since his own father was killed in the Scorpio Races working with Mr. Malvern - training horses and water horses. The other island residents say that Sean has one foot in both worlds. His years have been spent almost with blinders on - training the horses, catching water horses, training the water horses, winning some races and all for the benefit of Malvern. It's not until Puck decides to enter the races that Sean seems to really see Malvern, his work and his part in Malvern's success in a new light.
As for Puck, it's not until her older brother Gabe tells her he's leaving for the mainland that she' finally begins to see that she is, in fact, a grown woman in her own right. She faces a crises that she thinks can only be solved if she enters and wins the Scorpio Races - only the only horse she owns is a sweet mare named Dove.
I enjoyed everything about this book - the evil horse owner, Sean and his odd ways, Puck and her stubborn ways one step away from a rude petulant childhood; Finn, Puck's younger brother and his fey ways; Gabe and his friends and the way they interact; the three strange sisters that own a shop that sells things to tourists; the water horses, evil Mutt Malvern; and the island itself - with the sea, a personality in its own right. This novel is a definite read if you like dark fairy tale like novels; myths and legends with a slightly different twist. Stiefvater took the kelpie legends and reworked it to write a fresh dark fairy tale with wonderfully twisted characters.