A word of warning: I am going to sing praises to this book throughout my review. Yes, it’s THAT kind of a book. So good and magical and heart-warming and intense and I could probably list a number of adjectives but none would do this book the justice it deserves. It is AMAZING. Yes, I am partial to it since Maggie Stiefvater is one of my favourite authors and the story is set on an imaginative island somewhere near Scotland/Ireland but even if that would not be the case, I would still love this book to the death and shoved it in everyone’s faces (which is exactly what I’ll do tomorrow when I get back to uni).
I took my time with this novel. It took me three days to finish it but I literally went from one sentence to the next and marvelled at each paragraph. That actually happens quite often, especially when I’m reading a particularly interesting story because I don’t want it to end so I go slowly and really try to appreciate what the author has done. It happened with The Raven Cycle as well.
If you ask me what this book is about, I’d have to say that at a first glance it’s about a close-knitted community living on an island where each year a race takes place and in that race jockeys ride murderous water horses who try to eat them and escape back to the ocean. Sounds great, right? But there’s so much more to the story than that. It’s also a story of a family growing apart, a lonely man trying to gain his freedom and independence, a patriarchal community where changes are NOT welcomed and an old religion worhipping the gods of the ocean. It’s a story about love and sacrifice and the importance of family and it’s also a story about killer water horses.
My personal library contains a few collections of fairy tales and folk stories and one of them is a collection of Scottish folk tales which is where I first read about the dangerous water horses called kelpies who pray on innocent victims and lure them into the water. This story takes that myth but bends it substantially. Maggie Stiefvater does that a lot, she takes old myths and makes them work in her favor. She’s brilliant at that. And she is also known to focus primarily on the atmosphere, the feel of the story, not so much on the narrative and the characters themselves. I think this is portrayed beautifully in The Scorpio Races.
If you decide to read this book, you’ll meet two main protagonists. The first is a girl named Puck Connolly (in reality her name is Kate but her friends call her Puck) who decides to compete in the race with her horse Dolly because she wants to help her family. There she meets a four-time-winner Sean Kendrick, a man of few words but with a particular knack for horses. They become unlikely friends and even something more but they both fight their own battles. This was probably one of my favourite things about this book – though there was very little romance in it, the love parts that were included were simply magical and heart-wrenching.
The last 50 pages of this book were so intense I kept whispering to myself oh my God, oh my God, oh my God. I even texted my sister because my heart was beating like crazy. For a few minutes I thought the worst had happened and then came the ending which made me cry so hard. The last page… Brilliant, truly brilliant.
A lot of people on Goodreads have criticised this book saying the pace was too slow but that is THE WHOLE POINT. IT HAD TO BE SLOW. The island life itself is slow-paced so of course you can’t have a million different things happening all at once. And also although it may seem like nothing happens, that nothing is actually EVERYTHING. I mean come on, you just missed the entire essence of this book.
What you can do with this book is you can FEEL IT in every single page. You can literally feel the cold on your skin, you can smell the salt in the air, hear the waves crashing. You feel for Sean who lost his father to the races and is now by himsef. You feel for Puck and Finn and Gabe who also lost both their parents to the sea and are now trying to do the best they can. Puck and Sean together are just, agh, SO MUCH, there really isn’t any other way to describe it, they just make you fell so much, I almost squealled every time they were together.
Just go and read this book. Please. It will change you.
I’ll see you on Thisby.
(Also, this book reads like a poem. It’s THAT GOOD.)
“Does anyone ask you why you stay, Sean Kendrick?”
“And why do you?”
“The sky and the sand and the sea and Corr.”
Maggie Stiefvater, The Scorpio Races