A slow-build to a great conclusion
After spending several years hearing about the awesome and wonderful author who is Maggie Stiefvater, I figured it was time to accept the inevitable and read something of hers. Everyone insisted that I read The Raven Boys, but The Scorpio Races won out. Why, you ask? Because it doesn’t have a planned sequel, and I hate series. Great reasoning, I know. But there you have it.
The good news is that I ended up really liking The Scorpio Races, so I’ll probably pick up the more highly recommended novel at a later date.
The Scorpio Races is probably one of the most original and fascinating fantasy novels I’ve read. I’m not a big fan of horses—after being forced to watch every film about horses in existence a few years ago, my interest pretty much hit the hay. Stiefvater’s horses, however, are an entirely different thing. The water horses, or capaill uisce, described in this book are not tame. They are monsters who delight in killing men and eating anything with a pulse. And even though people ride these horses every fall, they’re doing it at the highest personal risk.
Sean Kendrick, one of this book’s two narrating characters, is the unchallenged horse whisperer figure. His ability to handle the capricious capaill uisce is almost magic. Sean has a special bond with them, and especially with one horse named Corr, who he dreams of owning some day. On the other hand, there’s Kate “Puck” Connolly, who has never followed the races and has no interest in them. Together, the two of them team up in a somewhat self-serving effort to get what they want from Malvern, the man who controls everything on their tiny island home.
This book started off slow, and I think it stays that way until the last 50 pages or so, when the race happens. How much success you have with The Scorpio Races probably depends on how invested you get in Puck and Sean’s stories. The bond between them grows slowly, and their efforts to achieve their goals are told in a subtle, honest style. The race, when it happened, was well done, though over quickly. I was expecting something along the lines of the chariot race from Ben Hur, but that entire sequence was much less flashy.
One thing I’ve consistently heard about Maggie Stiefvater is her prose and how distinctive it is. I’ve heard that it’s gorgeous, but maybe dense and harder to get the cadence of if you’re not feeling the story. Personally, I thought this author’s writing was very good, but not as mindblowing as I’d been lead to believe. There were occasional turns of phrase that I adored and had to highlight, like when Sean describes the wind as “a live, starving thing”. But at the same time, when Puck described rain as “the sky’s sweat”, I found myself less than impressed. But Stiefvater is a strong, masterful writer; that’s not in question. I feel like, though, that I’d been lead to believe her descriptions would be more abundant and flowery than they are in actuality. It’s not a bad thing, just unexpected.
The Scorpio Races is a really good book. I’m really impressed with the author’s execution, her characterization, and the way everything came together. (The end scenes was totally perfect, by the way.) I think this is worth reading, and I’ll be sure to read more of Stiefvater’s novels in the future.