Saturday, April 21, 2012
Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Pages: 409 (Hardcover)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Add It: Goodreads
The Scorpio Races is a very slow and subtle story. Maggie Stiefvater has said that she will sacrifice many things in her story to make readers feel something and it shows. Contrary to what the title may imply this is not an action packed racing story, and I feel like that may be why so many of the reviews are all over the place, because readers came into the story expecting something different. It’s not that the negative reviews citing lack of action are wrong, that’s all a matter of personal preference and this book is not something I’d recommend to someone who prefers a lot of action, but I would hate to see people turned away from this story because they think it might be boring. It’s certainly not as action packed as the title implies, true. If a book with very little action that spends most of its time detailing every sight, smell, and minor character is not for you then definitely look elsewhere, because I can see how the pacing would not appeal to every reader. The actual race is a very small part of this book but I wasn’t at all bored by all of the rich character development and world building.
What Maggie excels at here is transporting you to this little Island town. You can feel the tension on the beach, easily picture the beautiful and dangerous water horses, and almost hear the waves as Puck and Sean sit atop the cliffs. Even the minor characters on the island easily come to life; from tough Peg to Finn and his struggles with OCD, to the three quirky Maud sisters who own a shop in town. I think that Maggie is one of the more poetic and evocative YA writers that I’ve come across. While I easily prefer this to the Wolves of Mercy Falls series, both works showcase Maggie’s obvious ability to write a lovely phrase, and pull her readers into a story headfirst. I think that The Scorpio Races rises above the Wolves of Mercy Falls due to the originality of the story and the subtlety of the romance.
Romance actually plays a very, very tiny part in this story so those who need a lot of romance in their books beware. The romance here is barely there and yet it is probably my favorite pairing in the entire YA genre. It is slow to develop and only beginning once we reach the conclusion of the story. I think a quote from Puck’s (Kate’s) perspective really explains what I love so much about the couple in this story.
"I think every now and then about Sean’s thumb pressed against my wrist and daydream about him touching me again. But mostly I think about the way he looks at me – with respect – and I think that’s probably worth more than anything."
The friendship and budding romance here is built upon a mutual love of horses and respect. That’s worth much more to me than any overly grand love story of the Romeo and Juliet variety. The main love story here was between horses and their masters. Sean and Corr and Puck and Dove were the true shining pairings of this novel.
I also enjoyed both narrators individually. Sean’s love for the monstrous horses, his fierce loyalty and protectiveness of them, and capability to tame them as much as they could be tamed, endeared me to him. I also loved that Puck was a woman entering a race for men who wasn’t trying to make a statement, but was just doing what she needed to do to survive, and didn’t see how her gender should stop her from doing that. I also liked her lack of tact and prickly personality.
"My mother always said that I was born out of a bottle of vinegar instead of born from a womb and that she and my father bathed me in sugar for three days to wash it off. I try to behave, but I always go back to the vinegar. When my Dad was in one of his rare, fanciful moods, he told guests that the pixies left me on the doorstep because I bit their fingers too often. My favorite was always when Mum said that before I was born, it rained for seven days and seven nights solid, and when she went out into the yard to ask the sky what it was weeping for, I dropped out of the clouds at her feet and the sun came out. I always liked the idea of being such a bother that I affected even the weather."
Having grown up near the ocean and as someone who has always dreamed of owning a horse this story was perfect for me. It was original, sweet and a breath of fresh salty-ocean-filled-with-monstrous-but-gorgeous-horses air and I enjoyed it cover to cover.