on 17 April 2012
From start to finish I couldn't put this book down. It's haunting, mesmerising, evocative. It's spooky, vivid, violent, terrifying. The central characters are believable and well-developed. The structure is perfect, the use of language brilliant. The story is set on a remote island where people struggle to survive its ancient pagan history and the raw, desolate environment. Each year a dangerous horse race must be run on the beach. The riders must fight to control their demonic mounts, who rise from the sea looking to kill and eat whatever they can find - including the riders. The heroine, Puck, is a delight. She's brave and says little but thinks and feels deeply. The water horses are an incredible and imaginative creation. They scare the daylights out of me, such vicious, powerful, magnificent, unpredictable beasts. There's one scene when a wild water horse comes out of the stormy sea and ranges far inland, savaging everything in its path. It turns up at Puck's smallholding. The description of it looking over the fence at night to where Puck and her brother are hiding in the stable with Puck's little pony is alarming. You know it will kill and eat them all if it can get to them. I was breathless, wondering how they'd escape. Frankly, it's one of the best books I've read in ages. Maggie Stiefvater is an incredible author. I hope it becomes a classic. I would love to find another book to match this, but I'll have to keep looking because suspect that Maggie Stiefvater might return to her more girly style of writing for her next book or two. As far as I'm concerned that would be a shame.
on 5 March 2012
I finished this book this morning, and I mulled over what I was going to say about it in my review at breakfast. The thing is, I feel like I can't sum up my feelings adequately enough because I have no idea where to begin with this review, but I will try.
On the small island of Thisby, Kate "Puck" Connelly and her two brothers have been made orphans after their parents were killed on a boat by the capall uisce, deadly water horses that come up out of the sea during the weeks close to November. Every November, there is a race held on the beach, called the Scorpio Races, where riders race their water horses in a fierce fight to the finish. Some live and some die. When Puck is faced with consequences that threaten her family life, she has no choice but to enter the races and is the first girl ever to do so. Sean Kendrick is the four-time winner of the Scorpio Races; he keeps himself to himself and is ultimately a mystery.
The Scorpio Races is, at its core, a book about horses. I feel that this is the kind of book that you need to be patient and take your time with in order to really appreciate it. Stiefvater uses the water horse myth in this story, which I'd never come across before and I found it very intriguing. I was actually expecting something else entirely when I read the description for this, but in most ways it was so much better. Puck Connelly is one of the main characters, although the story is told from both Puck and Sean's point of view. She was a mentally strong character and I respected her for trying to keep things going normally for her family as best she could. She was definitely the character with the most growth, because she faced her fears and was determined in light of her new situation. Most of all though, I found her to be real. She had so many fears but she learned to face them and stood for herself in the lead up to the races. Sean Kendrick was a very secluded character, and I admired the way that he so easily could hide what he was thinking. He felt like a very conflicted character to me, and he was ultimately my favourite of the two. Puck and Sean brought out a new side in each other, and inspired each other to be stronger than they already were. The romance was slow but it does eventually get there; it doesn't overshadow what the book is really about. The most prominent thing in this book is Sean and Puck's love for their horses; especially Sean's. Their horses were a big part of who they were and they were a very big part in both Puck and Sean's motives for winning the race. I also think that Stiefvater did a great job with the island descriptions because they were really beautiful and she did a great job with the secondary characters. For me, this book is possibly Maggie Stiefvater's best work. For those of you who might consider reading The Scorpio Races after this review, I have to tell you that nothing really happens until three-quarters of the way in, and like I said, you need to be patient with it. This book is about what you're willing to do to keep your family together and it questions what you want and what you need. It was beautiful, and tears welled up in my eyes at the ending.
on 3 December 2011
This is the book I thought I would never find... horses and fantasy and set on a wild little island that could be a main character in itself... what more could you want?
The book may be aimed at a young adult audience but, as is often the case, I think it could appeal any age- so don't let the hearts on the cover put you off.
I won't go into details of the plot as the blurb gives a pretty good explanation of what the story is about. I'll just say that the book switches between the first person perspective of Puck Connolly and Sean Kendrick. Stiefvater's writing trips along nicely making it a pleasure to read but to me her words hold something more in 'The Scorpio Races' -her obvious passion for the subject matter oozes from the ink.
In the first chapter Puck says, "She is my mare and my best friend, and I keep waiting for something bad to happen to her, because I love her too much." I read this and something inside me relaxed, oh, I thought, she understands and from here on out Stiefvater seems to hit every point perfectly; the thrill of the gallop and the thunder of hooves, the permanent dirt ingrained into your hands and the smell of hay and horse sweat on your clothes. Her cappaill uisce (water horses) embody the raw power and beauty of the horse and the sea and in turn demand the same respect.
As a lover of both horses and the fantasy genre this book was an absolute pleasure to read. I just hope she decides to continue with this story someday...
on 9 March 2012
I have read Maggie Stiefvater's Wolves of Mercy Falls series and although I enjoyed them and read all three books, I didn't fall in love with them. I thought I'd give The Scorpio Races a go, knowing from the reviews it was very different to the author's other books, but quite liking her style of writing and really unique ideas. I'm really glad I did, because while The Scorpio Races wasn't what I was expecting in terms of genre, I really enjoyed it. I found myself thinking about Puck and Sean and their wild island long after I'd finished the book (which, needless to say, took me no time at all as I didn't want to put it down). If you are after a traditional supernatural/fantasy story, then you won't find that here. What you will find is a beautifully descriptive, haunting and quite raw story of love - love between siblings, love of animals and tender new love. One of those books that made me think a little differently about the world.
I loved the Mercy Falls series by Maggie Stiefvater, I started Lament but couldn't be bothered to finish it. When I got this book, Scorpio Races I was kind of worried that I wouldn't be keen on this story either. I am not a horse lover and this book is all about horses, ones that live on land and man eating ones that live in the sea. A hundred pages in and I considered giving up but I am glad that I stuck with it because it is a good story once it gets going.
The story is set on an island which sounded very much like an island that you might find off the Scottish coast. Kind of remote with a small population and wild weather. We have two main characters who alternate as narrators. There is Kate, known to all as 'Puck', and Sean Kendrick. Puck is an orphan who lives with her brothers, she decides that this year she will be the first female to enter the Scorpio races that take place on the coast every November. Sean Kendrick is a loner who works with horses and for the past three years has won the Scorpio Races.
The Scorpio Race riders can choose whether to ride a normal horse or a Capall Uisce, a horse that lives in the sea and can be dangerous. It took me quite along time to get to grips with the sea horse part of the story. I was confused, there are so many different horses in the book that at some points I wasn't even sure which horse was a land horse and which was a Capall Uisce (and no, even after reading how to pronounce Capall Usice at the beginning of the book I still couldn't tell you how to say it.)
The best part of the story for me was how the relationship between quiet Sean Kendrick and acid-tongued Puck develops. Yes, it is very slow and maybe not that exciting in terms of romance but it is very sweet. By the last few chapters of the book the reader is drawn in to the story by the upcoming race. The winning of this race is crucial to the happiness of both of these characters and so you begin to wonder what will happen if Puck/Sean loses?
If it were not for references to cars, plastic wrapping on chicken and people travelling over from California this book could be set anytime in the last two hundred years. There is that timeless quality to the descriptions of island life. There are interesting secondary characters, some good and fun like George Holly, the Californian or evil like Mutt Malvern.
I must warn fans of her Mercy Falls series that this is such a departure from those books, that it will be like reading a story written by an entirely different author.
"Don't thank me." Peg's already walking away. "Show them who you are."
I swallow. Who I am is crouched down inside this girl named Puck Connolly, praying that I'll make it through the next few minutes."
- The Scorpio Races
Every November, the Scorpio Races are run. The beautiful capaill uisce are fast and dangerous, and a number will not survive. But for Puck Connolly and Sean Kendrick, the stakes are high: neither can afford to lose, but who will win? Four-time winner Sean rides the fastest capall uisce, and has a magic about him straight from the sea. How can Puck compete? Especially when she will be riding her flesh-and-blood land-horse, Dove. Puck faces opposition from the men riding - and they are all men - including Sean Kendrick.
You can't just call Sean Kendrick 'Sean'. He is Sean Kendrick. See how Maggie does that? Somehow, she makes the reader understand Sean Kendrick is not simply his name, or who he is, it's WHAT he is, what he's MADE of. And Puck - I think we never know her age for sure. We guess at 17 or 18. We are forced to recognise the different colours of bravery, because Puck doesn't lend herself to the hero archetype - she would really be uncomfortable with that.
What is it about Maggie's writing? It's so organic, as if it grew out of the magic story-world and blossomed into your brain. She tells you things without telling you - I don't think Ireland was ever once mentioned, and yet you somehow know the island without a name is off its west coast. With the exception of the use of the word 'pants', you wouldn't guess at an American author (do the Irish say pants for trousers? I'm not sure, but I didn't imagine they did). And I did enjoy the American character who was a veritable opposite of the loud obnoxious stereotype to which we are all accustomed (now you know it's an American writer...), garnering a little positive press for a - good! - change.
I was afraid I wouldn't love The Scorpio Races. It was 'about beaches and kissing', Maggie kept saying. What if I don't like beaches and kissing? What if beaches and kissing aren't my thing?
Going into a book with sky-high expectations is like going into a relationship - don't do it and you can't be (really badly) disappointed. My problem is that I admire Maggie-the-person, and adore her books (excepting Lament which had something missing) so much that I may have unrealistic expectations of every future book, and unnecessary anxiety that I might NOT love it (because wouldn't that be betraying our unrequited friendship?) -
I loved The Scorpio Races.
She said it was the most 'me' book she's written so far. She said it was about beaches and kissing, but in my opinion it is about horses and the sea and sea-horses (but not seahorses) and *not* kissing. Do you see? Not yet? You will.
on 29 August 2012
When I first heard about 'The Scorpio Races' I really loved the idea behind the story. It's based on the myth of the capaill uisce or water horses who once captured from the sea, are believed to be the fastest creatures to run on the land. The book is set on the small island of Thisby, where the Scorpio Races take place annually between the terrifying flesh-eating water horses, who may be fast but are also dangerous creatures who have been known to kill their human riders. Although the premise was amazing, I found that when I started reading I didn't immediately connect with the story which was slow to get going and didn't grip me as I thought it would have. I kept waiting for it to completely engage me and sweep me away but it never really happened.
What I did like about the book was the beautifully lyrical descriptions of the water horses themselves. I could sense the love which Maggie Stiefvater feels for these magical beasts in every passage written about them. I thought she had captured perfectly the image of the thrashing horses, determined to return to their beloved ocean, the salty tang and spray of the sea, the bitter cold of the island itself and the wildness which surrounds it. It almost felt like another world, separated from the reality of life on the mainland.
The story itself may have fallen a little flat for me, but the characters really grew on me and I particularly liked the blossoming friendship between local girl Puck who lives on the island with her two brothers and the stoical Sean Kendrick. Both want to win the race for their own personal reasons but there can only be one winner and as they grow closer together, it becomes harder for each of them to imagine what will happen to the one who loses. Sean has previously won the race four times and is an expert on horses, but is determined to win this time so that he can win his freedom and that of his beloved horse Corr. I loved the connection between Sean and Corr. The two have an amazing and genuine bond between them and Sean is the only one who is able to calm Corr and ride him safely. He puts the welfare of the horses he looks after before anything else and his selfless nature means that he's willing to help Puck to train for the same race he must win.
Puck is headstrong and stubborn and although she feels fear about competing in the races, she won't back down from the challenge. I loved Puck and her brothers Finn and Gabe, especially Finn who doesn't know how to take a compliment. Although their parents are both dead and Gabe is set on moving to the mainland, they still felt like a genuine family unit and I enjoyed reading the scenes between the siblings.
It was refreshing to read a standalone YA story for a change, as so many books now seem to be part of a trilogy or a series. If you love horses then you're sure to enjoy 'The Scorpio Races' or if you're a Maggie Steifvater fan then you'll definitely want to check this one out. Although the story didn't completely win me over, I did find myself falling in love with the ruggedness of the island of Thisby itself and the ending of the book was absolutely perfectly written.
on 26 March 2012
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 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.
on 26 November 2011
Kate Connolly 'Puck' lives on the island of Thisby, with her two brothers Finn and Gabe. Her parents died so they are left to look after themselves. Skarmouth is a strange little place, every year people travel to the island to watch the Scorpio Races.
The Scorpio Races are very dangerous, people racing on the backs of Capall Uisce,(water horses) wild beasts that wash up from the sea once a year. They cause the deaths of a lot of people every year, and go mad near the sea. Puck decides to sign up for the races. After Gabe tells her and Finn that he is leaving the island. She shows up at the Gratton's butcher shop to put her name down, along with her little island pony Dove. Leaving the Butchers she catches her first glimpse of Sean Kendrick.
Sean Kendrick is orphaned, he watched his dad die in the Scorpio races nine years ago. He works for Malvern, the richest man on the island who deals in horses. Sean has won the terrifying Scorpio Races four times, on the back of Corr, a blood red Capall Uisce that once belonged to his father, but now belongs to Malvern.Sean loves Corr and has trained him well. Sean has a way with horses, and some say he has one foot on land and the other in the sea. His job every year is to train the Capall Uisce and pick the safest for Mutt, Malvern's son to ride in the races.
Puck and her family have very little money, with very little jobs on the island to be had they are left doing odd jobs. Gabe works in a hotel in Skarmouth. Mr Malvern calls round unexpectedly to the house and informs Puck that money hasn't been paid on the house and he is going to evict them all. Puck tells him to wait to after the races.
The men on the island don't want Puck in the races because she is a woman, and she is riding Dove not a Capall Uisce.Sean sticks up for Puck and the to of them meet every morning on the cliffs, watching the training below on the beach.The two of them are quite drawn to each other. Sean rides with her on the back of Corr, a Capall Uisce she can't quite bring herself to be frightened of.
The race day dawns and both Sean and Puck need to win. Puck because she needs the money to keep the house that reminds her of her parents, and maybe Gabe will stay. Sean made a deal with Malvern, if he wins the races Malvern will finally sell Corr to him. Sean has always wanted Corr as his own.
The ending broke my heart, I wasn't expecting it.
For me this book was fantastic, I think it's either a love it or hate it book, I definitely loved it. I will admit I found this a little bit hard to get into at the start. So I would say to everyone to stick with it as it really does pick up.
Maggie Stiefvater really built a great world here, I believed and felt every word. Maggie as always for me has fantastic writing style. Very strong characters that I really did care about. I was drawn to the alluring water horses, terrifying as they were, to me they were both magical and beautiful.
This a must read book, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
A five star read. :)
on 22 October 2011
I've long awaited the arrival of this book. Maybe a little too obsessively.
I first discovered it on Amazon doing the usual mooching around for new YA books, and I have to say, I'm glad I've bought it.
For anybody who hasn't read the book, (and I am warning you now if you don't want spoilers...)
It is based on the legend of the Cappaill Uisce (pronounced COPple Ooshka) or rather "water horses" to you and me.
I thought., `Great! Just what I've been dying to read!' (after growing out of pony books when I was ten, and being chucked into the world of YA fiction, fantasy and "Edward! I love you!" `s)
I was actually surprised by how captivating the book actually was. I literally couldn't put it down!
Man-eating horses must just be my thing, or something, because it easily surpassed Stiefvater's other books, (all of which I have devoured with relish...).
I read the Shiver trilogy, and was touched by how warped the Werewolf/ shape-shifting myths were, but still how gruesome and heart wrenching they could be.
I read Lament and Ballad, and how Faeries despised iron, and how friendship and music and love intertwine and collapse,
But seriously, how can it compare to lines like these:
"...the Capall Uisce, a fearful, dull Pegasus with disintegrating wings of sea foam, wanted. His teeth flash, the colour of dead coral, and his great head smashes against the girl as her head comes up above water..."
You would think, considered this book is always orbiting around the deadly and feared water horses, that the Cappaill Uisce would just rule the book. Or, maybe Sean and Puck (the two narrators and main characters relationship, kissing, blah, blah... But Stiefvater has created a world that revolves around fantasy, danger, love, gore, and most of all, family. All I can say is get your tissues ready if you're a blubber like me.
The only issues I have between me and this book are that I wanted to find out more about how Sean and Puck are affected after the races, and how their relationship is played out. And that it took an awful lot of the book to prepare for this so-called blood battle of a race, but the race itself was only about ten pages long., and maybe not as entertaining as I'd hoped.
But, seeing as I am not the author of six books, I can be lenient and say that maybe the extra mass destruction of The Scorpio Races could be thrown into a novella, and that there SHOULD be a movie of this!!!! (Hint Hint....)
Overall I give this book four stars and would recommend it over any of Maggie Stiefvaters other books any day.