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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Publisher: Scholastic
Published: October 18, 2011
Pages: 404
Source: Bought
Rating: 5 Stars

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.

In short: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater is a brilliant and memorable story with fantastic characters and beautifully descriptive prose.
Maggie Stiefvater, where have you been all my life? Okay, I know, it's totally my fault for only clueing in now and finally caving to peer pressure after reading countless reviews that have raved about her books and her writing. You guys were SO right. I loved The Scorpio Races entirely. And I couldn't be more impressed with Maggie Stiefvater's writing and her mastery at utilizing imagery to craft the most beautiful sentences and scenes. Plus, growing up I was one of the horse-crazy girls who wanted nothing more than to spend her time frolicking with ponies (I still do, really). So naturally, I was pretty crazy about a storyline revolving completely around horses.

Maggie Stiefvater's genius wasn't immediately apparent to me, however. The Scorpio Races is a quiet book, one that kind of snuck up on me. At first the pacing seemed slow and it felt like nothing was happening. At some point though - not sure exactly when - it just hit me: this book is BRILLIANT. The Scorpio Races has a quiet grace to it. The story, the characters, the setting - they were all understated, yet completely impactful and memorable in retrospect.

I had a hard time wrapping my head around the water horses at first. As someone who has once witnessed a horse become spooked by a bit of floating plastic, it was hard to picture horses as predatory and vicious. It didn't help that these water horses apparently looked much the same as regular horses, with no predatory morphological characteristics whatsoever. Evolution be damned! But I digress... I'll just call it pure fantasy and be done with it.

And it wasn't long until I was lulled and convinced into believing in the concept of killer horses thanks to Maggie Stiefvater's descriptive prose. I don't know much about her or her interests, but it was immediately apparent to me that she knows what she's talking about when it comes to horses. Not only did she get the terminology right, but she completely captured the personality and quirks of horses that are so uniquely equine. As a horse-crazy and detail-oriented girl, this was SO important to me. If I had read a description that wasn't at all in line with how I know horses to act, it would have taken me completely out of the story. Thankfully, this never happens. Maggie Stiefvater NAILED it.

But horse personality isn't the only thing she got right. Nor is it hardly the most important aspect of the novel - The characters were fantastic. Puck is my favourite kind of protagonist: very flawed and not immediately likeable until you get to know them and you realize they have a heart of gold and a fierce spirit hidden behind their faults. I also loved Sean, the novel's other narrator, for his quiet, no nonsense demeanour. And I ESPECIALLY loved the bond between Puck and Sean and the bond between them and their horses. Just perfect. The antagonists are definitely note-worthy, as well. They were truly horrible and intriguing and memorable and did I mention HORRIBLE? There are very few thing that get me riled up quite as much as animal cruelty, so I was sufficiently repulsed and enraged by the novel's baddies.

Alright, I could go one and on about all that I loved about The Scorpio Races, but this review is getting quite long (for me anyway) so I'll stop here. I just loved it a lot, you know? I loved the understated yet powerful story, the moving characters, the gorgeous prose. AND THE HORSES!!

Other Reviews:
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Courtney Reads A Lot
Poetry to Prose

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  1. I've never read anything by Maggie Stiefvater, but I've heard really good things about her. Maybe I'll give this book a try. Thanks for the review! I'm glad you liked it. :)

  2. Yes, yes! And Raven Boys is even better. I know what you mean about a quiet book. I loved the water horses. It took me awhile to realize they weren't real.

  3. First of all: I love how fangirly you are in this review, Aylee! ;)
    But anyway, I love love love Maggie's writing and I'm pleased to hear that it carries on in this one! The concept honestly sounds so great, and the fact that she KNOWS horses is just a bonus. I don't think I've ever come across a book before where you think it's boring and then BOOM it's amazing. That's cool that you experienced that in this book! Puck sounds like a character I'd really like. Really loved reading this review, Aylee! So happy you loved this one.

  4. Woo, a five star! You're so funny when you get all enthusiastic and fangirly xD It sounds really good, although I know very little about horses. I'm glad ou caved and loved it :)

  5. Great review! I'm really looking forward to reading this book after your and countless others' great reviews:)

  6. Love this review. I can't wait to try it.

  7. Yay!! So glad you loved it. This might be my favorite Stiefvater book. I absolutely love Puck and Sean is great too. The horses are SOOO creepy. You're right, this is a quiet, slow burner, and I don't know exactly when I fell in love with the story, but I fell pretty hard. Thanks for your lovely review!

  8. Ok, I've had my eye on this one for a while, but now I know I need it! As a fellow horse-crazy girl, I'm often wary of books featuring horses, since I get annoyed when things are off. But if Stiefvater got the horses right (even awesome predatory ones), then I definitely need to get this one! Although my horse is scared to death of pigeons and cows, so who knows.

  9. Moving characters and engrossing story sounds great to me, I need to read this one soon!

  10. Wow, I'm so glad you loved this one. I've never been a horse person but I gave this book to my sister because she is...sounds like she needs to read it soon. I do want to check it out at some point. I loved the couple books I've read by Maggie so far.


  11. I also LOVED this book. I agree, the characters were absolutely amazing. I think my favorite bond was the one between Sean and his horse, especially in the very end. My eyes got a little watery there :) Great review!

    Alise @ Readers In Wonderland

  12. You seem to be on a roll reading some fantastic already-published books, Aylee! I'm so glad you enjoyed this one so much; I know I certainly did. I actually just bought myself the US paperback release because it has a gorgeous cover and because I borrowed it from the library and then realized that I simply HAD to own this book. I appreciate subtle stories so much and Stiefvater really nails it here. That's also an interesting point you bring up about the description of the horses. I loved horses when I was younger, but I don't really know how to describe them or what terminology to use or anything. I'm glad you felt the book described them well, though. Lovely review!

  13. I have read other books by Maggie Stiefvater and did not like it. But I want to give her a try again maybe I should give this a try.
    Great review!!



  14. Wow, Aylee! Full five starts from you makes this a MUST read for me. I've only read Maggie's Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy and loved it so I better get to The Scorpio Races soon. This looks like a perfect read and I'm happy you loved it so much. Lovely review!

    Sarika @ The Readdicts

  15. YES! I'm so glad you loved this, Aylee! It's one of my favourites too, and I still think about this book ALL THE TIME. You're right - it definitely has a quiet grace to it. It's the sort of book that isn't loud or obvious in any way, which makes it all the more brilliant when you think about it. The Shiver books never did amaze me, so I was hesitant to pick this up, but I'm glad I eventually did as this was something else entirely. Between TSR and The Raven Boys, Maggie Stiefvater has managed to completely change my opinion of her writing. :) Fantastic review, my dear!

  16. So, let me get this straight...you liked the horses?

    Kidding. I was pretty meh with the Wolves of Mercy Falls books and The Scorpio Races didn't really grab me right off the bat, but I liked Lament okay, despite the fairy aspect. I do have The Raven Boys, though, so maybe I should give Maggie Stiefvater another go, as you seem to be singing her praises.

  17. Yay I love your enthusiasm here - Maggie Stiefvater is a high priority author on my TBR, especially Raven Boys & The Scorpio Races!! Your love for horses rivals my love of cats so I can only imagine how wonderful it was to read a book where the author is not only familiar but knowledgeable about the animals in question :D I especially loved how you described this book as having ''...a quiet grace'' ♥ because one of the best feelings ever while reading is having a book surprising you because it's awesomeness sort of creeps up on you as you go! Anyways, thanks for the exciting review, I want to read this one even more now!

  18. This book has this huge, special place in my heart! It's one of my all-time favorites and I keep rereading it every time I need some beauty in my life. I agree about the horses, I was unsure at first, but Maggie quickly convinced me it was a great idea.
    I actually like ALL her books, I gave two 4 stars, and the rest were all five start reads for me.
    I'm glad you're discovering her too.

  19. I think I need to read this book. It was taken me a few tries to actually like Maggie's writing (The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy was not my favourite), but I really enjoyed The Raven Boys. I am curious about this one and that it's a stand alone.

    Great Review Aylee, you've convinced me.

  20. Yep, yep, totally awesome review. You won me over AND as you know from Goodreads I purchased the book on a special deal. I'm so excited to start reading this one. I was going to pick it up but you can blame Small she convinced me to download a couple of NG review books to read with her instead. Darn it - she's pretty persuasive - that girl.

  21. YAY!! So happy you loved this book!

    "At first the pacing seemed slow and it felt like nothing was happening. At some point though - not sure exactly when - it just hit me: this book is BRILLIANT." - Agreed! I remember feeling the same way, too. It seemed slow but good. Somehow (and somewhere along the way), it just became a WOW sort of story!

    Fabulous review!

  22. An author at the top of her game. That's Maggie Stiefvater. If you loved the first installment, you will not be disappointed. Of course, if you read The Raven Boys you already knew Maggie's work wouldn't disappoint.

    Do yourself a favor. Read these books.
    Highly recommended Grizzly Bear Tours website