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.
On the fictional island of Thisby, water horses–the eich uisce–emerge from the sea each November to roam the beaches beneath the seaside cliffs of Thisby. And each November, the men of Thisby capture these menacing beasts to engage in a deadly and thrilling race for the chance to secure the winner’s title and prize money. Both four-time champion, Sean Kendrick, and newcomer Kate “Puck” Connolly will ride in the races this year, and both of them have something to gain–or lose–by the time they cross the finishing line. But there can only be one winner.
This novel is beautifully written, darkly enchanting, and rich with Celtic myth and folklore. Maggie Steifvater offers a spellbinding narrative of family tragedy and drama, and also introduces readers to relatable characters that you can root for. Foregoing the typical love triangle, the author skillfully constructs subtle relationships that develop over time, and offers a tale that is simple in love and loss. It is a story of growth and maturity, independence and tough decisions. It is without a doubt, a skillful mix of fantasy and slice of life.
This book holds an original tale about a yearly horse race containing one of the most dangerous horses in all of mythology, the water horse or the kelpie. Despite this, it is a tale containing a race, rather than a tale about a race. The story offers a bit more than pure entertainment; it encourages readers to contemplate the importance in realizing one’s purpose in life and constructing a path that best befits one’s ultimate goals and aspirations. This story provokes the idea that the importance of an object, a concept, or even a way of life may not be perceived the same in different eyes. Sometimes it’s not possible to make others love what another loves. She urges readers to recognize these differences and, in response, make decisions that contribute to individual happiness and internal growth, and confront any obstacle with a passionate heart, steely reserve, and unclouded vision.
Stiefvater blends the best of both worlds, combining both fantasy and the teenage/young adult experience, with a splash of teen romance that is different and unique in that it does not offer the typical three-way romance or the immediate love spark. There is a slow development of the relationship between the two main characters, one that is subtle but potent, noticeable but not distracting from the other events occurring within the story. I found Kate/Puck Connolly and Sean Kendrick to be relatable and intriguing characters whose relations towards one another slowly came into being and had a chance to grow and shape itself into something that wasn’t entirely certain but had potential in the very end to be very powerful and constant.
In essence, Stiefvater focuses on character development between one human and another, between a horse and its rider, and between human and beast. She expertly crafts a novel that is rich with dark and grotesque imagery, believable character development, and mysterious ambience. Love, drama, bildungsroman, female empowerment, Celtic myth and folklore (mythical horses) and captivating, poetic prose are the driving forces in this novel.
After reading this (along with the Raven Boys and Lament), I have decided that Ms. Stiefvater is one of my favorite writers. I am one to enjoy dark, mystifying, and suspenseful reads and I definitely count this as one of them. I highly recommend this one and though it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I think there are many elements in this story that would regale any avid reader.
- Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks; Reprint edition (April 1, 2013)
- Language: English
- Genre: YA Fantasy, Coming-of-Age
- My Rating: ★★★★★