The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Let me tell you about my complicated relationship with The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.

First, this novel is sprung from an amazing and original idea, water horses. Awesome, right? I thought so too.  And, in the end, I really enjoyed the book as a whole; however, it took work to get there. I struggled so hard to finish because it’s so agonizingly slow. I’m talking no action or plot movement until page 150 or so, and there are 404 pages in all.

I read some negative reviews before starting the novel but I just had to know what this mesmerizing story plot was about, so I read it anyway. I’m so glad that I did.

The Scorpio Races happen on the first of November on a small island every year. The capall uisce or water horses are dangerous but beautiful creatures. Men lose their lives trying to tame the beasts in order to win the coveted prize at the races. Kate Connolly or Puck is desperate and chooses to enter the race despite being the first woman to enter. This decision forces Puck to cross paths with four-time Scorpio Race winner, Sean Kendrick, and this year, he needs to win just as badly as she does.

Like I said, the first part was extremely slow. It was all background and world building. This could have been a genius move on Stiefvater’s part by building anticipation for pages and pages, but I’m not sure if that is what she was going for. I’m also not entirely sure if this story was in the present or not. At times, it seemed almost as if I was in eighteenth century England based on the way the characters dressed and conversed. So, that threw me for a loop. Initially, the writing was impersonal and cold. It made me almost anxious and uncomfortable while reading, as if a curse was put upon the book and all who dare read it are doomed to misfortune.  Needless to say, I was a little unnerved.

I really like Puck as a character. She was strong and sassy; she didn’t take crap from anybody. I thought her original reason for entering the race was a really weak plot point but once the momentum got going and her reasoning changed it made more sense to me. Sean Kendrick was an interesting character. He was the strong, ambitious type, a man of very few words. I loved being inside his head. The book is set up with alternating narratives similar to Stiefvater’s Shiver, so we got to switch back and forth between Puck and Sean. I like that about Stiefvater’s writing style.

Her writing is always colorful and concise; it’s also really deep at times. Here’s a quote that caught my eye: “I think that’s the mercy of this island, actually, that it won’t give us our terrible memories for long, but lets us keep the good ones for as long as we want them.” This quote should give you a taste of the solemn, dreary world that Puck lives in but also loves to be part of.

The romance between Puck and Sean was very subtle. I would almost define it as quiet but strong. My favorite part was a moment between Puck and Sean after they had ridden Corr, Sean’s capall uisce. They just stand together with Sean holding Puck’s wrists and their pulses match heartbeat to heartbeat. It was very intimate and unique. I liked it. It displayed vulnerability without completely opening up, which completely defines both Puck and Sean as characters.

The ending was very satisfying and worth drudging through the quicksand of all the background in the beginning. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who prefers light reading; it was rather complicated to me.  I would argue it takes a lot of work to get through this novel but it was totally worth it.

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