The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
or: Ten Year Old Ashleigh Would Have Loved this Book
Synopsis: 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.
When I was 10 years old, I went through a horse phase. Saddle Club was love, Saddle Club was life. I think most little girls went through a horse phase back in the early noughties.
Anyway, the point is- there is one I swear- that horse stories held my attention for a while from the ages of about 8-11. I love all animals, and think horses are great, but the frenetic energy of that time has been dead and gone for about 12 years… which makes me feel incredibly old when I think about it in that time framework.
But when I read the summary for this book back in early 2015, I knew I was going to end up reading it; it was only a matter of time. My inner 10 year old was rather insistent, and so, as a grown ass woman, I bought my first horse book in over 12 years. February 2016 was the time it seemed, as I needed something small to read while I waited on another book order, and this book had been sitting in my TBR pile for a few months.
This is not a childish story. At all. In fact, this story is definitely marketed at the age of 16 and older- not through adult themes, but more through the rich complexity of the writing. While the water horses are a chilling creation, courtesy of Stiefvater, they’re the sort of monster you find in a PG 13 film. But with Stiefvater’s well crafted plot and beautiful prose, these beasts definitely jump right off the page.
Do you know what I love about Stiefvater? She creates such human and believable characters, it’s really hard not to love them. Her characters are overwhelmingly human with real flaws, complexes and habits that are incredibly developed and real. It’s hard to not see them as people that you know in real life; the characters could honestly jump off the page and walk down the main street of town and no one would be any wiser.
That’s also the reason that I loved the romance between Sean and Puck. It’s not the knee -weakening, stars aligned, destined to be together shit. This is so real that you cant help but admire their honesty with each other. The slow burn creates so much empathy, and reader connection that it almost surprises you how much you end up caring about these characters.
While a short book overall, this wasn’t a fast moving plot. But it didn’t matter. It was slow and measured, yes, but I’m glad it was. It added to the authenticity of the story. And while yes, the ending and race itself was so damn predictable I could guess what was going to happen from chapter two, and while it played to those assumptions to a T, I’m glad it went that way. I would have been disappointed if it didn’t.
Stiefvater takes her time to comment on small towns and really develops the world Puck lives in, creating a complex mythology in a short period of time. And it must be an effective one, because this book sits at a solid 4.08 stars on Goodreads; people, it seems, agree with me.
At the end of the day, if you’re looking for an intense mystery, this isn’t the book to pick up. I would instead direct you to Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle series. This book feels like the plot bunny that got away from Stiefvater and was definitely her book to play and create experience on settings, mythology and characters. But this book doesn’t read like a development piece and it’s not obvious at all when you’re reading it.
In summary; 10 year old Ashleigh would have loved this book. And 22 year old Ashleigh did as well.