Author: Maggie Stiefvater.
Some race to win. Others race to survive. 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 choice. So she enters the competition – the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.
If it were possible to give a book a formal apology, I’d be writing that for The Scorpio Races right now instead of this review.
I read this book over a year ago, by a friend’s request, when I’d just started doing content-reviews. At that point I was keeping track of content in my head. (Quick word to the wise: NO. DON’T. Your memory of the book will be heavily tainted with every minor problem, and you’re more likely to mess things up that way too.) Moreover, I’d only recently ventured into YA, and was highly suspicious of it. So…. my impression, over a year later, was “Cool horses but kind of a lot of swearing and sexual content, pretty meh overall”.
Ahahaha. I’d like to go back and whack past me over the head with this book and say this is exactly the kind of book you love. Track content in a notebook instead, and focus on the gosh-darned amazing beautiful story.
It’s a story about love, and kelpies (Okay, fine, they’re capaill uisce, water horses. The premise is still basically “So there are kelpies, and because men are men they decided to ride them. In a race.”), and that certain indefinable painful feeling you get looking into the endlessness of an ocean, or hearing a hawk scream overhead. I love the main characters, Puck and Sean – both so stubborn and lonely and semi-feral – and the romance. Slow, sweet romance not born from physical attraction and lust, but from two minds fitting together so well their owners could hardly help but follow.
I almost didn’t want to like Sean, just because I’m contrary. He’s not really the dark brooding hero, but I was getting some of those vibes. What finally caught me: Sean’s employer’s son hates him. Hates and insults and belittles him constantly, finally going out of his way to sabotage the horses’ Sean works with. As the story goes on, a cold slow anger is finally pushing up and up through Sean – and it’s not because of hurt pride, hurt dignity, not for any half-dozen insults. Mutt can get to him through the horses, because Sean’s temper finally begins to break when faced with a man who would savage and kill innocent animals.
Most people’s main complaint is that the story is slow. And it is. See, the thing is, if you were expecting vicious capaill uisce and the deadly Scorpio Races to be the main focus of the book… well, you’d be right, to some extent. But it’s not about the blood, although there’s plenty of that. It’s about the men who’d choose to risk that blood, the sea that demands it, the island that soaks it up. You have to take your time to lay that out. There are men who can’t wait to get off the island, and men who will never leave it – that single fundamental divide drives half the plot. It’s about what you want versus what you need, and realizing that you forgot what happiness looks like.
Sexual content: A character implies another character is involved in sexual activity; woman flirtatiously brushes up against man – it’s implied that she gropes him; two characters kiss briefly; one man implies another enjoys sexual interaction with animals (sheerly as an insult); characters discuss breeding animals professionally.
Language: One mild obscenity, two derogatory names, three scatological words, four anatomical terms.
Violence: The violence around the water horses is high. Two or three characters are killed on-screen by water horses, and various characters have been killed in the past. The same waterhorses kill several sheep, a dog, a normal horse. At one point a character kills a water-horse to save another, basically suffocating it under water. One character ham-strings a horse, then nearly fights another man who blocks him from the next.