Book Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

All the great things I heard about this book were true. It earns a top rating from me.

The Scorpio Races takes place on an isolated, stormy island. Every November, the Scorpio races are held. These are deadly races in which the capaill uisce, water horses based on Irish/Scottish mythology, race for both speed and blood, sometimes killing their riders (or the opponents) and sometimes earning them money.

What I liked about this book is that it uses the horse races as a backdrop, but it’s really the story of Puck (Kate) and Sean, two outsiders whose lives are woven together throughout the narrative. It’s told in alternating points of view—Sean’s and Puck’s, in first person—which usually annoys me, but it worked well in this case. My only gripe was by the end, their voices sounded very similar to each other, and I had to keep checking whose POV I was in—but as they grew closer by the end of the novel, this was probably intentional on the part of the author.

Puck and Sean are both strong, imperfect characters. In some ways, they reminded me of heroes from Ayn Rand novels in a more down-to-earth, likeable kind of way. Neither cared what society thought of them and only followed society’s rules to the extent that it benefitted them. And yet, they were both sympathetic characters, taking action to help others when the situation demanded.

I liked the world building. Though the author purposefully doesn’t name a date, women’s suffrage is mentioned, and the types of cars available, the mention of radio, but no mention of TV or other technology, suggests that it takes place well within the first half of the 1900s. The world building continued with things like November Cakes (there’s even a recipe in the back) and other traditions relating to the water horses. Speaking of water horses, I loved how the author made them at once magnificent and terrifying. I really felt like I was there.

The book is over 400 pages, and although it wasn’t a super-fast read for me, I found myself unable to put it down for the last 150 pages (the lawn didn’t get mowed that day!). The book holds enough interest that I think adults and young adults would enjoy it.

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