Review: The Scorpio Races

  • Author: Maggie Stiefvater
  • Published: October 18, 2011
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press
  • Reading Level: Ages 14 and up
  • Pages: 416 pages
  • Source: Bought 
 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.

 ~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

In all honesty, I had no idea what to expect when I picked up this book. I head read other books by Maggie Stiefvater, so I expected a decent and original story, but prior to reading this book, I also read a novel about Pegasus that did not sit well with me. Because of that, I was utterly shocked when this novel, another one about some type of horse, blew me away completely.

Maggie Stiefvater writes with simplicity, bringing out perfect detail. Everything was so simple for such a complex story and it completely blew me away. Prior to reading, I looked up several interviews about the novel, and I have to applaud Stiefvater's admission of putting the book off for a while because she couldn't find a plot suitable for such a tale. She admitted the the capaill uisce fascinated her, but she could not write a story that could do them justice and scrapped several before she was finally able to come up with The Scorpio Races. Bravo, Maggie! You did an amazing job at giving these creatures a novel that they deserve! 

The story takes place on the island of Thisby. This island thrives off of the tourism that The Scorpio Races bring in every November. Every November, people die at the hands of the beautiful but completely deadly capaill uisce. Nineteen year old Sean Kendrick has a way with the capaill uisce, so much so that it is believed he, like them has one foot on land and one foot in the sea. His way with the horses led him to win the Scorpio Races four times in a row on his beloved capaill uisce, Corr. But his world begins to turn upside down when Kate "Puck" Connolly enters the races to win money in a desperate attempt to stop her older brother from leaving her and her younger brother alone on the island once he announces that he is moving to the mainland.

I must say, I've already said capaill uisce too many times for a word that I still have trouble pronouncing. But back to the review...

The story alternates between Sean and Puck's perspective. It's fascinating to hear both of their voices. They do the same things and cross paths with the same people, but they analyze their encounters with the same people or similar activities so differently because they both have such distinct voices. Sean Kendrick is subdued, focused on winning it all so he can have Corr forever, the one being in the world he trusts, even if he is the last thing he should ever trust to begin with. Puck needs to win because she needs to make sure that herself and Finn can survive on the island without their elder brother's monetary aid. She needed to save their home on her own beloved horse, Dove, not a capaill uisce. Puck's willful perspective differs entirely from Sean's subdued stubbornness.

This book is not a novel to read if you are looking for a central focus on romance. While there is romance in this novel, and a delicious one at that, it is not in great supply. It's slow-blossoming and is not a central focus point of the story. The main focus of the story was showing the relationship between the capaill uisce and their riders, painting such a vivid relationship between humans and these beautiful, deadly beasts. Stiefvater captures their nature perfectly, and, in the process of doing so, she set up possibly one of the most intimate non-intimate scenes I have ever read. I know, that sounds odd, but this scene is not one full of kisses in the corner or secrets that needed to be revealed, but simply about a connection shared between individuals. The connection between Puck and Sean while on Corr's back was written so beautifully that one cannot help but feel the intensity of their relationship as they slowly began to fall for each other. The intimacy of such a moment was amazing when the moment itself did not require any intimacy at all. Only Stiefvater seems to be able to write scenes like that, and it quite obviously blew me away. This book is all about the connections one feels to others, to animals, and to loved ones.

The characterization throughout the novel was genius. You will love many of those you come across and find yourself giggling at many of their antics, but there is one character that I promise you, you will despise. His name is Mutt Malvern and his father, Benjamin Malvern, can be a bit infuriating at times, too, though Mutt brings it to a whole new level. However, his characterization is essential to the plot-line. For everyone good, there always seems to be someone bad to balance it out. Mutt's got enough bad to balance out almost every character in the novel and, trust me when I say this, there are a lot of sweet characters that you will immediately fall in love with. Because of this, I am saying no more. I could truly go on forever.

Besides the skilled usage of mythology throughout this novel--something I truly adore when reading--my favorite part of this novel was Stiefvater's willingness to tackle heavy-duty topics like gender discrimination. There is a lot of gender-bias in this book. After all, Puck is the first woman to ever enter the Scorpio Races. Not many people wanted her there and she encountered a lot of problems due to her gender and her desire to race in a "man's race." Another heavy-duty topic tackled in this novel was the differences in social classes. Any scene that involved Benjamin Malvern and Sean or Puck is evident of this. I could list so many examples to you, the simplest one being the odd ingredients that Mr. Malvern requires to be in his tea, but I am trying so hard not to reveal any spoilers!

This book will be receiving a 5 star rating. Stiefvater was able to weave a complex story with an ending that will not only make readers happy, but also find a way to make them tear up and lose their breath all at once. She incorporated mythology and discriminatory topics into the novel and added a flare of romance to satisfy all of our inner-romantics. But more importantly, the book seemed almost spiritual. It emphasized the beauty in everything, even something as deadly as the capaill uisce, and it showed that a powerful connection between two different beings is essential to survival.
 This is a must read for any young adult reader and mythology lover.

the cover is simple. The image of the horse and its rider contrast beautifully with the font chosen for the title. The cover's simple, almost too simple, but I couldn't imagine successfully pulling off a cover with the capaill uisce on it. It's better to imagine them within our own minds instead of being shown a picture that could truly change what we think of them.

 5 stars


  1. Great review! I have been debating on this one for a while. It isn't the type I usually pick up, but I keep reading so many reviews that say it is awesome, I just might have to. Excellent reviews, new follower :)

    1. It's totally worth picking up!

  2. I have read everything by this author, except for this one. I am not sure why, but it just doesn't seem like I would like it. But every time I read a review for The Scorpio Races, I rethink my decision. One day, I might just need to give it a try for myself. You never know, I may love it like you do. There is no doubt the author id phenomenal. There is no way she could write something bad!