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.
My Review: Where do I start? I like to speak open and honestly with my opinions and my reviews. Books are not the only thing I write about, and a more negatively biased review is never fun to write. Someone, in this case, the author, poured their heart and soul into that project and I don’t like to rain on anyone’s parade. But a review is nothing more than a critique. And perhaps the author may appreciate it? I’m not sure.
The Scorpio races just did not grab my attention. Throughout the entire book I found myself struggling to carry on a little more. Once in a while, I would find myself wanting to read a little bit more, but they were self fulfillment moments for me. I wanted to hear the gossip about a particular event. I wanted to know why this person did this or that. I wanted to see one of the protagonists have his butt handed to him. But those moments were sparse. Overall, it just didn’t do it for me.
I don’t want to say that The Scorpio Races is a bad book though. There have been many other readers that have loved it. I can understand why. The writing is very artistically done. The author weaves her words like a fine quilt, examining every stitch with every bit of perfectly chosen letterage. By every means, the author is a damn good writer.
There was a lack of emotions in the wording that I felt. It just didn’t connect. It works for this title as the whole island is very drab. But an author has the capabilities to express that little bit of emphases here or there, much like a musician will choose to soften a low part of a song or make the guitar strings screech much louder. Academically, the author is excellent. Emotionally written, this book is drab.
I have a feeling that The Scorpio Races will become one of those classics that are used throughout the educational system as a work of art and material to dissect for students much like Lord of the Flies. But I found the plot line very boring. It feels much like a lifetime movie. A small sequence of important but subtle events takes place here or there. There is a lot of filler, like feeding the horses, or the house wife going grocery shopping in her 1980s Volvo wagon a la Lifetime. There is some fun at the end, but the reader must fight their way to that point. The plot line has a very interesting concept, but the book could have been much shorter or included additional powerful events that would have spiced things up a bit.
I think my boredom may have been caused because I am a guy (sorry, forgot to mention that I read this book and not my wife. She may have a different opinion then I do after she reads the book) and I read for personal enjoyment, not personal gain. The Scorpio Race is a book filled with moral high ground examples and life lessons. But just like my movies, I want some fast paced action, gripping stories that don’t let you breath, and maybe a little sexual frustration thrown in just to make things interesting. This book is much drabber and low key.
Final Thoughts: The Scorpio Races will become a classic revered by readers to come for many generations. I am willing to bet on it. This book is very well written. There will be a good majority of readers that will really enjoy this book. It was a little boring to me though.