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Monday, January 30, 2012

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater

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.

 I've been a fan of Maggie Stiefvater for a while; I enjoyed her Shiver trilogy and her first two novels, Ballad and Lament . With The Scorpio Races I expected more of Maggie's wonderful writing and stories. 

I wasn't disapointed, and I certainly wasn't surprised when the book was announced as a 2012 Printz Honor. 

The story revolves around a legend, this one of the capall uisce or killer horses (and try spelling that). Every November groups of riders gather among the beaches riding the capall uisce and trying to survive riding the horses long enough to make it to the finish line and win a purse of money. The story revolves around two characters, Sean and Kate, nicknamed Puck, who take turns narrating the novel. Sean is an accomplished rider who has won the race four times on his horse, Corr. Still, as November approaches, he feels unsure. Puck has never entered, but when her brother threatens to leave the island, she decides to join the race -- becoming the first girl to enter -- and ride her old horse, Dove. 

I'll start first with the plot. The water horses idea is really unique, and I'd never heard of the mythology before. Maggie handles the idea well, creating a unique mythology that's fresh and interesting, and creepy at the same time. The plot moves very slowly, however, and readers who aren't as interested in reading slower-moving books may become disinterested. I was a little bored in the beginning but the pace quickens. I did think that the actual race was shorter than it could have been; with so much buildup it could have been expanded on. 

The characters are strong and well developed, their motivations clear and their personalities shining through. I did have an issue with the characters at the beginning of the novel -- they all were well developed but so many characters were being introduced I was becoming confused. The characters also often recall to one another by both last names and first names, a tendency that becomes annoying when you can't remember said character's last or first name. A lot of characters get introduced in the beginning, and while they all have purposes in the story as well as strong characteristics, I found it challenging at first. The many characters, however, do show the livings of the community and unnamed island. Puck and Sean were well developed with pasts, personalities, and both strengths and weaknesses, as well as their passion for their horses that showed. 

The writing was one would expect from Maggie, and something that has been lauded in many reviews: very beautiful and elegant. I wasn't surprised by this, and her writing is a pleasure to read, with its elegance and cadence. I honestly have nothing else to mention on the writing other than that it was beautiful and very nice to read. 

I did enjoy the book, if it wasn't as great as I thought it would be, but it was still a great read and deserving of the Printz Award. If you enjoyed Shiver , any of Maggie's other books, or books on horses this is a fantastic read. 

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