On the island of Thisby, water horses rise from the sea every winter hungry... for flesh. They prey on humans, sheep, dogs, even other horses. While the townsfolk are terrified of the water horses, they are courageous enough to try and train them to run in The Scorpio Races, held every year. The races bring people and racers to town from all over, and it’s the town’s only form of revenue. The men who are racing have to capture a water horse, tame it, then ride upon the shore in a bloody race that leaves many people dead or injured, or even dragged out to sea.
The water horses scared the living daylights out of me. I had nightmares about them. Maggie does such a wonderful job describing their unique beauty and an even better job of describing how terrifying they are. I have to admit I was confused as to what they were and how the races worked, but Maggie did a good job explaining it more throughout the book.
After watching his father die at one of the Scorpio Races when he was little, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion from last year’s race. He has actually won 4 races already! He is quiet, mysterious, and known as a horse whisperer to the locals. He is the guy people call upon to actually train the water horses to win the race. He hopes to one day buy his beloved water horse, Corr, from his boss and a win this year would probably give him the freedom he so desperately wants. Part of the book is told from Sean’s point of view and I was so glad. He is such an interesting character. He is mysterious, courageous, amazing with the horses, gets picked on by the local teenage boys, and yet had my highest respect throughout the entire book. Reading from his point of view made me love his character even more.
Kate (Puck) Connelly is an orphan, left with just her two brothers after the water horses killed their parents. Puck’s older brother Gabe is leaving her and her younger brother, Finn. Puck joins the races hoping she can win and earn enough money to save their parents house and delay her brother from leaving. She is the first woman to ever enter the races and the men are not very happy about it. Puck decides to ride her own horse, an island pony, instead of one of the water horses. While it was never written as a rule that you had to ride a water horse, no one has ever just ridden a regular horse. Needless to say, Puck gets picked on, treated like garbage, and the race is made even more hard for her throughout the book. Puck’s point of view makes up the other half of the book and I loved watching her grow from scared young girl to courageous racer. Puck asks Sean to help her train for the race. He reluctantly agrees and a unique bond forms between the two of them.
I honestly could not get enough of Puck and Sean’s story. While the book is not overly romantic (what Stiefvater book is?), this romance felt so real. The characters were so alive to me. They had regular quirks, regular problems, broken families, and that really came through in the book. I could feel Sean’s frustration and Puck’s courage. It’s a bit slow paced, but it works. I am not normally one who likes to read a lot of describing words, but the writing was so beautiful that it was simple for me to see the world Maggie painted. I think Maggie really hit the nail on the head with this book. Filled with terror, deadly animals, unique characters, romance and everything in between, this book is a must-read for fantasy lovers.