Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

  • Title: The Scorpio Races
  • Classification: Young Adult (Ages 14 and up)
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Format: Hardcover, 416 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press (October 18, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 054522490X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0545224901
  • Sexual Content: Contains kissing.

     "Fifty years ago, that was a man they killed up there, just like every year before. The man who will not ride."
     "Why?" I demanded...
     "Because...if you feed the island blood before the race, maybe she won't take as much during."

Every fall, beginning in October, as the time draws closer to November, the capaill uisce (pronounced CAPple ISHka)  rise from their watery home. These beasts look like horses, but do not make that mistake or it might just be your last. For ordinary horses they are not and they are as dangerous as they are beautiful. They emerge from the ocean hungry and ready to feed. Both equine and serpentine rolled into one. They'd sooner eat you than let you ride them. "They are every color of the pebbles of the beach: black, red, golden, white, ivory, gray, blue." With teeth razor sharp and eyes like a fish, they are predatory, graceful, fast, powerful, and fascinating all at once. Mid October, just weeks after their initial rise, marks the beginning of the Scorpio festival. It is the highlight of the island and it's main attraction is the Scorpio Races. A race of the waterhorses (aka capaill uisce). The ultimate race for the thrill seeker.

This year is unlike any other. Kate 'Puck' Connolly, wishes to keep her family together. She has just found out that her brother, Gabe, is leaving the island in two weeks. Perhaps to never return or be heard from again. In a moment of panic, trying to grasp at something that could keep him here if only for a few more days, she declares she will be riding in the Scorpio Races. She will be the first woman in the history of the races ever to do so.

Sean Kendrick watched his father die in a Scorpio race when he was just 10 years old. He was taken in and put to work by Benjamin Malvern, owner of the Malvern Yards. The business exports sport horses to the mainland. Every year just before the races a mysterious woman no one seems to know who is dressed as the mare goddess, Epona, drops a shell and the receiver is granted a wish. This year Sean, for the second time, is the recipient of the wish, but no shell is needed...
"The ocean knows your name, Sean Kendrick," She says. "Make another wish."
Sean, now 19, has won the last 4 of the 6 Scorpio races he's ridden in. He's the one to beat. The question is what does he truly want?

One girl wishes to save her family. 

One boy who wants to be free.

One race that could kill you.

One day that could be the answer to your prayers or the end of them.

One declaration and it all begins...

I will ride. By my blood.

I just adore Maggie Stiefvater's writing style. There's just something about it that endears me to her books. The little details she adds just make her characters and stories spring to life within the pages as I read. Sean doesn't easily make friends and tries to keep to himself. His mother had abandoned him and his father to the mainland when he was eight, looking for a better life. Once his father died, he was pretty much left to himself. He is quite yet insightful. He's strong yet vulnerable and though he might not realize it, lonely. He's also got a talent no other possesses. He's a waterhorse whisperer.

Puck, who has two brothers, is tough and determined. Her parents died years ago and her brothers and her horse, Dove, are all she has left. Once she makes up her mind about something she sticks with her decision.  Puck's mum used to tell her,"some things happen for a reason, that sometimes the obstacles were there to stop you form doing something stupid." Her father, however, would say, "sometimes it just means you have to try harder." Puck learned her lessons well and is not afraid to stand up for herself. As one spectator declared, "She bites!" That's figuratively not literally. lol Being the first woman to ride in the races makes her the target of a lot of unwanted negative attention. She'll need a tough shell and a little bite because many are not happy about her entry.

To the onlooker the Puck and Sean are seemingly the opposite of each other. Yet when you get down to the heart of them, they're very much alike--loyal, smart, and have a love for their animals which others might not understand. They both are easy for the reader to relate to and bond with.

Each will grow just a little during the festival. They will form a friendship and come to understand one another. On an island where everyone claims to know everyone else, no one truly knows Sean or Puck. They will come to care for each other, but only one can win the Scorpio Races.

Stiefvater starts out slow and steady with this one and then turns up the speed and action at the end for a big finish and winning tale. She adds some twists and turns that will have you sitting at the edge of your seat waiting to find out who will win and who will lose. I could definitely see this becoming a movie in the future. While this one is labeled 'Young Adult', I felt it had more of an adult edge to it. Hopefully, the Young Adult label won't make those over the age of 18 overlook it. This one gets 5 out of 5 roses from me. I highly recommend this one. A beautiful story with just a dash of romance. FYI, I was just searching to find something about Capaill uisce and found out Warner Brothers bought the rights to the movie. Congratulations Ms. Stiefvater!

Notes to keep you in the know:
According to Wikepedia, "In Gallo-Roman religionEpona was a protector of horsesdonkeys, and mules. She was particularly a goddess of fertility, as shown by her attributes of a patera,cornucopia, ears of grain and the presence of foals in some sculptures[1] suggested that the goddess and her horses were leaders of the soul in the after-life ride, with parallels in Rhiannon of the Mabinogion. Unusually for a Celtic deity, most of whom were associated with specific localities, the worship of Epona, "the sole Celtic divinity ultimately worshipped in Rome itself,"[2] was widespread in the Roman Empire between the first and third centuries CE." 
The above information found on wikipedia. To read the full account go to:

"The kelpie is a supernatural water horse from Celtic folklore that is believed to haunt the rivers and lochs of Scotland and Ireland; the name may be from Scottish Gaelic cailpeach or colpach "heifer, colt".[1]...The water horse is a common form of the kelpie, said to lure humans, especially children, into the water to drown and eat them." 
The above information was found on wikipedia. To read more about the kelpie go to:


  1. Read Lament by this author and liked it. When I saw this book I was intrigued by the story line. Completely original and very well written. Great character development and she really avoided cliche moments. I picked it up on a kindle sale for 2.99 but it's worth every penny of the full price.
    Highly recommended Bear Viewing


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