Stiefvater, Maggie. The Scorpio Races. Scholastic, 2011. 404p. Grades 8-12. Fantasy (Printz Honor).
The Scorpio Races happen every November. The water horses come out from the see and only the bravest and strongest race and survive. Sean is the reigning champ, but can continue the streak? Puck never meant to enter the races, but here she is as the first girl ever to ride.
Review: The Scorpio Races was memorizing to read. Stiefvater uses the water horse mythology in a completely innovative way. Instead of having the water horses lure people to their death, she creates a world were people capture them (capaill uisce) for their own purposes. In addition to creating something new out of an old myth, the world she builds on Thisby is harsh and alluring. She uses brief descriptions like, “Happiness isn’t something this island yields easily; the ground is too rocky and the sun too sparse for it to flourish.” She litters them throughout the novel to create a vision of this isolated island.
Stiefvater captures small town life perfectly in this novel. The gossip at the butcher shop and the interfering women give such a vivid picture that you can cringe with Puck when she’s in the middle of all of this and rejoice with her love of the people and the island. One of the most interesting dynamics on the island is the pull between Catholicism and paganism. This could be construed as a metaphor for current teens who are struggling to figure out religion today and how it interacts with politics and culture. In addition to the struggle with religion, the majority of the island is poor and trying to make ends meet, this is particularly relevant in today’s recession. Both of these struggles will resonate with today’s young adults.
While the writing was powerful and gorgeous, the action was not continuous. The climax of the novel, the actual race was really the only fast paced action, however, this didn’t slow the book down. The capaill uisce provided enough adventure through their descriptions, such as, “With his back to us, Sean tugs the halter from the mare’s head. She kicks out, but he steps out of the way as if it were nothing at all. With a shake of her mane, she leaps mightily into the water. For a moment she struggles over the waves, and then she is swimming. Just a wild black horse in a deep blue sea full of the ashes of other dead boys.” Even though the descriptions made up for the lack of action for me. I think it could be a turn off for some teenagers. This could be a good novel for someone who is already a reader and is looking for another fantasy that is not about werewolves and vampires that have become so popular recently.