June 30, 2012

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

An old Irish myth describes horses that emerge from the sea each November, eat flesh, and if ridden, are the fastest and the strongest. These water horses can become dangerous when they can see, taste, or touch the sea. They are most certain to kill man or beast. It is this myth which forms the basis for The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.

Sean Kendrick's nineteen-year-old life has been defined by the Scorpio Races, a contest held annually in November, in which water horses are raced on the beach. A person is most certain to die in the races, as did Sean's father when Sean was a young boy. Sean has become a hardened expert in the racing and training of water horses. Sean works for the wealthy Mr. Malvern, raising both water horses, and racing thoroughbreds. Sean has a deep connection to Corr, a water horse he has raised, raced, and eventually would like to own.

Puck (Kate) Connolly's parents were both killed by water horses, and is now caring for their house, for herself, and her two older brothers. Her best friend is Dove, a pony that she rides like the wind, carrying the memory of her mother who taught her to ride. There is little income, and all seems lost when Puck finds out that the house is going to be foreclosed on. In desperation, she decides to enter the Scorpio Races and use her winnings to pay off the house. She breaks tradition by being the first woman in the races, and racing Dove, a horse that is not a water horse.

The novel is told in the alternating voices of Sean and Puck, who eventually meet, form a bond, and support each other in the climactic race. Sean's motivation to win is ownership of Corr. Puck's motivation is to save her house. Complications arise from Sean's nemesis,  Mutt, Malvern's son, and a blossoming relationship between Sean and Puck.

I was motivated to read the novel because it had great reviews. Stiefvater devotes much of the narration to building her characters, and a richly textured setting...in fact, I think too much. The book almost lost me, as I wanted the plot to move on. For the first half of the book, I felt bogged down. The second half is excellent, with a few surprises. My greatest surprise was what did NOT happen... a love story between Sean and Puck. While there is a kiss, and Sean is distracted by thoughts of Puck,  the story is ultimately about two damaged kids who find redemption in their determination, will to improve their lives, and how their common bond of the love of horses brings them together to find the strength to move on. Might be for mature readers, because of the violence, but otherwise nothing harmful.
Reed Reads Score: 3.5

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