Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Scorpio Races

The Scorpio RacesThe Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the Scorpio sea, somewhere in the Atlantic, lies the island of Thisby. It's a small island mainly inhabited by fishermen but it's popular for its capaill uisce and its Scorpio Races. Capaill uisce are fearsome water horses. They feed on meat and blood and they are predators, killers.
The Scorpio Races are held each year in November and they're a tradition in Thisby. They're also dangerous, brutal and the cause of several casualties each year; because of course riders, in these races, compete riding capaill uisce. This year, Kate "Puck" Connolly, has decided to ride too. She wants to delay her brother's departure for the mainland and to save the house they lived in ever since their parents were killed from the capaill uisce. Winning the race would solve all her problems and so she enrolls. But she's a woman and no woman has ever ridden in the races before.
Sean Kendrick is the most experienced and talented horse trainer that the island of Thisby has ever seen. He's lost his father in the races and has won four times with his capall uisce, Corr, He is also the only one who can help and protect Puck in her desperate mission.

No words can be more eloquent than the author's own to describe the intrinsic weakness and strengths of this book.

"Other writers might have different priorities, but for me, the chief goal of my novels is not plot or premise or pacing, but to evoke a certain feeling. I will sacrifice most anything in order to change someone's mood in a certain way. I can't do that without careful navigation of metaphor and character development."
Taken from Maggie Stievater's blog, on "Dissecting Pages for Mood".

Perhaps, the biggest strength (and therein lies the talent) of Stiefvater's writing is that it is nothing but atmospheric. She is able to catapult the reader on the island of Thisby in November. You can feel the wind chafe, the water sprays freezing you to the bone, the smell of fish. She manages to dominate all your senses in such a complete way that you're there, smelling, touching, tasting (the November cakes, yum).
It's the kind of writing that I got enamored of in Shiver. Lyrical, exquisite, it touches you deeply and leaves and indelible sign.

Aside from the beautiful writing, the concept of the story is also very interesting. My experience of water horses was limited to the kelpies from other fairy books and I knew they were dangerous animals that would drown you before you realized it.
The capaill uisce though are dreadful monsters, brutal, fearsome. I was fascinated by the relationship between Corr and Sean, by the total unconditional love of a boy for a being that might kill you in the blink of an eye. In fact, I'd say the main love story in the Scorpio Races is not of the "human kind" but it's about a love based on friendship, trust, sacrifice between a man and a monster.

Much as I liked these aspects of the story and found the second part of the book unputdownable - no, scratch that, I HAD to put it down. The last chapters of the book, especially the ones describing the races got me so agitated I had to shut to the book and take a break from time to time, lest I give myself a stroke.
Unfortunately, the first part was Mountain Everest for me. I barely made it to the top, right before giving up.
It seems like Stiefvater really holds true to her words in the quote up there when she says that the main chief of her novels is not plot or premise of pacing because the pacing is really an issue for about the first 200 pages of the book. And that's A LOT in my opinion.
I deem this to be a big problem because really, I can't even imagine a teen getting over those first two hundred pages and still be interested in the story. If a book is abandoned because it's too slow at the beginning, what is the careful navigation and character development good for, if the reader never makes it to that point?

Nevertheless, I am so glad I did get over that first, looooong, uneventful part and finally got sucked in the story (also, I was fearing for my life, ahem) when I could finally appreciate Stiefvater's writing maturation, if compared to her previous novels, such as Shiver.
I will definitely be looking forward to her future works.


  1. I have this book, but I just couldn't get into the story. I'm glad to hear it get's better after a little while. I'm definitely going to be giving this book a second chance now! Thank you for the great review.

    1. You should and you will get into the story. It's impossible not to get into the story after a certain point!

  2. I loved this one. I, like Maja, am a huge fan of Maggie's. I think her writing style is brilliant. Glad you liked this one Lisa (wouldn't have wanted Maja to get ugly with you)! :)

  3. I enjoyed this too, I remember having issues with the animal cruelty but that's something I always find hard to deal with. I did like that it was about a more unique idea than all the other paranormal YA at the moment and you're right, reading this book made me feel like I was there too.

    Brilliant review, Lisa :)

  4. I definitely agree about the beginning, there were many times where I just felt like giving up the book. But I am glad that I did read it. I love that Mt. Everest comparison, I think that's very true. =) Great review!

    -Aneeqah @ The Brain Lair

  5. Oh my gosh... I loved this book so much!! <3 And one of my favourite parts was how beautifully Maggie wrote the atmosphere too. Every sentence made me want to move to that island even more, killer water horses or not! ;) And LOL the last hundred pages were definitely intense -- I almost wanted to put it down too! (But I couldn't because I just HAD to know who won the race!!)

    Beautiful review, Lisa! With Maggie's new book coming out later about the Raven Boys, I'm definitely looking forward to her new books too! :)

  6. Great review Lisa, I've not had much luck with Stiefvater's books, I liked Linger but I'm still unsure about finishing the series. But as you said this sounds like a really interesting concept, may be one that I would like too.

  7. Aww sorry to hear you had a problem getting into this one, Lisa! But glad to hear it worked out eventually. This is my favorite Maggie Stiefvater so far but I have seen mixed reviews so I know that it's not a book for everyone. I like that it's a standalone novel because it makes it easier for me to recommend it to other readers. :P I should probably read Linger and Forever soon.

  8. I have been waiting for your review, I know Maja loves this one. I love Maggie's writing, I love the way she engages all your senses. I have heard that the pacing is slow, but it pays off. I still need to give this a go. Thanks for sharing Lisa.

  9. Lovely review, Lisa! I have never read this book, but I'm glad to hear you enjoyed the second half despite the slow start. I really need to get round to this someday...

  10. Such a great novel. At the end I skipped the race and read the ending first before I went mad. I know it's bad...but sometimes...I am glad to find another person that liked it. I really did and thought it was completely unique. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Hmmm, I love the premise behind this book, so I think I would (hopefully) find it fascinating enough to keep reading despite the slow pace.

  12. so exited 4this1
    love her writing


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