The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater is a 2012 Michael L. Printz Honor Book.
I really enjoyed Stiefvater’s Wolves of Mercy Falls series (Shiver, Linger, and Forever), so I had pretty high expectations for this novel, and to be honest, it kind of let me down. This book wasn’t bad by any means, but it didn’t make me fall madly in love either.
Kate “Puck” Connolly lives on the small remote island of Thisby, where a sense of time seems to be lost. There are a few modern items, such as trucks, but for the most part everything seems to be locked in some kind of olden days time warp. Puck has just discovered the devastating news that her older brother Gabe is planning on leaving the island. This is distressing because Puck’s parents were murdered years before, leaving behind three children. Puck is desperate to come up with the money to keep their house, and provide for her younger brother Finn, so that Gabe will stay on the island.
Puck’s dangerous and reckless solution? She decides to enter the Scorpio Races, a feat no woman has ever undertaken before.
On the island of Thisby, every November, the capaill uisce (massive, untamed, man-eating, murderous water horses) arrive on the shore from the ocean. Every year, the island hosts the Scorpio Races, where a rider must catch and tame a capaill uisce to ride in the races for the cash prize…the catch: try not to get trampled on, eaten, or dragged into the depths of the ocean by said water horse.
Seeing the capaill uisce close up scares the hell out of Puck (as it should). Desperately needing the cash prize, Puck decides she will still enter the race, but instead of riding one of the colossal water horses, she will ride her own domesticated horse, Dove. Of course this makes her the laughing stock of the island and the star of manly gossip at the butcher shop.
And then there is island native Sean Kendrick, only a few years older than Puck, who has won the last four Scorpio Races. Sean possesses an innate ability to calm the capaill uisce, making him the most sought out trainer for the races. Even though Sean has the winnings of four races, the only thing he really wants is still unattainable—the fierce red water horse that he rides in the races each year, Corr. Corr is owned by a man named Terence Malvern, who owns the island’s massive horse ranch. In order to keep Sean (and his awesomesauce horse whisperer skills) on his ranch, Malvern refuses to sell Corr to Sean.
While training for the Scorpio Races, Sean and Puck begin to notice each other and interact. As this kindling romance builds, you find yourself torn on who to root for: You really want Sean to finally have enough money to buy Corr and get out from under Malvern’s hand, but on the other hand, Puck needs the money to save her house and keep her family together.
The Scorpio Races is very well told. Maggie Stiefvater does a commendable job of weaving insanely beautiful images into your mind, not only of the massive and exotic capaill uisce, but also of the gorgeous island of Thisby. I also feel that she aptly captures the fear and allure of first love, and the trepidation of the hardships life can bring. Not to mention the heart stopping adrenaline rush during the actual Scorpio Race at the end. Talk about keep you clinging to the edge of your seat and yelling at book, making observers look at you strangely. :-\
While I didn’t enjoy this novel as much as I did her previous series, I give it four stars. The movie has been announced to be released in 2015.
“It’s easy to convince men to love you, Puck. All you have to do is be a mountain they have to climb or a poem they don’t understand. Something that makes them feel strong or cleaver. It’s why they love the ocean.”
I say, “I will not be your weakness, Sean Kendrick.”
Now he looks at me. He says, very softly, “It’s late for that, Puck.”