Sunday, 6 November 2011
The Scorpio Races Review
As some of you may know, I went to BEA (Books Expo America) this year and my whole trip was made in the first 5 minutes of the exhibition. Why? Because I’d managed to score not only an ARC of Forever but also an ARC of Maggie’s new book, The Scorpio Races. And as if that wasn’t enough, I was lucky enough to be invited to a US Scholastic event in the heart of New York City and had the opportunity to meet Libba Bray, Meg Cabot and of course spend time with Maggie who may or may not have been surprised to see me on her side of the pond for a change! I wasn’t able to read the book on the plane ride home (sorry, Maggie!) but I’m glad I waited until now because the book is set in October/November and this is the PERFECT time to read it.
I’m going to start this review with a confession. I read the premise and immediately screwed up my face and thought “huh? Water horses?” Do you remember that 2007 film, The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep? Um, Yeah. The horses in Maggie’s book are not like that AT ALL. Forget cutesy, these horses are huge, monstrous creatures that are very, very carnivorous. Known locally as the Capaill Uisce, they immediately reminded me of this classic Guinness advert:
Yes, I’ll admit that I was terrified to read the book but not because of the killer horses but rather because I was scared that I wouldn’t like the story. I’ve actually been putting off reading it because I did not want to be the one blogger who didn’t like it, especially considering how much of a Maggie fan I am. And you know what? Even before I’d read the first 50 pages, I was already in love with it. I’ll even go as far as saying that I believe The Scorpio Races is Maggie Stiefvater’s best work yet. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a massive fan of Maggie’s and I adored The Wolves of Mercy Falls series but her new book surpasses everything else and leaps into a whole new category. The Scorpio Races may be quite different from her other books but I absolutely loved it. Here’s the synopsis:
“It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.
At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.
Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.”
What’s interesting about The Scorpio Races is that Maggie does not tell you where or even when this book is set. We know it’s an island called Thisby but we don’t really know where that is. The dialect is British/Irish and because of that and the names of the islanders (and also Maggie’s Irish roots), in my head I had decided it was close to Ireland. I adore the island feel Maggie brought to the books where everyone knows everyone and there are of course those who can’t wait to leave but equally there are those who are married to the island, such as Puck (Kate) and Sean. The island is part of them; it’s in their blood.
Sean is effectively a horse whisperer. He loves horses and there’s no one better on the island at dealing with them, especially the Capaill Uisce. I believe this is not only because he loves them but because he respects them and knows he cannot control them. They are wild animals after all and I liken it to caring for lions - by all means love them but remember that they are unpredictable and that’s something Sean doesn’t forget and probably why after all these years of working with them, he’s still alive. There is one horse in particular Sean has come to love and that is Corr, only Corr belongs to the richest man on the island and Sean’s employer, Benjamin Malvern and he’s not willing to sell him, not even to Sean.
In Puck, Sean finds a kindred spirit. What’s interesting about Puck is that she seems to be the complete opposite of Grace from Shiver. Whereas Grace was neat, logical and practical, Kate is most definitely not practical, is full of fanciful ideas and clutter is her natural habitat. I remember this time last year when Maggie first told us that she had written another book and she promised beaches, blood and kissing. By the time I got to page 200 or even 300, I was so eager for kissing and there was none to be found. Maggie has indeed perfected the art of teasing her reader. She doesn’t give you all the information up front but has you questioning throughout and just when you’re wondering about something and thinking that it hasn’t been explained, she provides the explanation. I believe the same could be said for the kissing. Sean and Puck’s relationship is a very slow burn and really not the heart of the story, but a nice sideline. There are many other love stories going on within the book - brotherly/sisterly love, between the island and the water horses, between Sean and his horse Corr and between Puck and her horse Dove. One of the things I really enjoyed about Puck and Sean’s relationship (and worth mentioning) is that they never really alluded to their physical attributes. A lot of books mention eyes, lips and hair but it wasn’t like that for Sean and Puck. Whilst I don’t doubt that there must have been SOME physical attraction, it was more about spirit and personality.
I’ve always wanted a brother and I enjoyed the relationship between Puck and her brothers. Finn is the youngest and possibly a touch autistic. He likes to tinker with engines, can’t stop washing his hands and doesn’t take compliments well but he is my personal hero and you’ll find out why when you read the book ;) Gabe is the older brother, the one shouldering all the responsibility since the death of their parents and struggling to cope with this, after all he’s a young man himself and has a life of his own to lead.
I had to laugh at the mention of a family with the surname of Gratton and this is obviously a nod to Tessa Gratton, one of Maggie’s critique partners who has now effectively been immortalised in one of Maggie’s books. I shall be watching with interest to see how Tessa can slip the word “Stiefvater” into her next novel. Yeah, good luck with that.
Sean and Puck both have their reasons for entering The Scorpio Races and no matter who wins, the cost of losing is going to be high. A word about the ending, I thought it was just brilliant and had me pumping my fists in the air screaming “YES!!”. And yes, I seriously did that. The final pages were heart wrenching and damn it Maggie, you did it again and brought me to tears. This is starting to become a habit now! The Scorpio Races was absolutely brilliant and I can’t recommend it highly enough. There is NOTHING in the Young Adult market like it at the moment and the movie rights have just been optioned so we might just see it on the big screen and I for one cannot wait.
The Scorpio Races was published on 18th October, 2011. To find out more about Maggie and her books click here. Maggie is also a member of the Merry Sisters of Fates (together with fellow authors and crit partners Tessa Gratton and Brenna Yovanoff) and you can access the site here. Maggie is active on Facebook and Twitter.