The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Posted October 17, 2011 by Sara | Novel Novice 2 Comments

Fans of Maggie Stiefvater’s elegant writing style and slowly-building narratives will find plenty to enjoy in her latest standalone novel, The Scorpio Races.

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.

As always, Stiefvater’s writing is beautiful — almost painfully so. Her gift for turning a phrase and crafting a sentence is truly something to be admired, and aspiring writers should take note of her skill.

The world she has created in The Scorpio Races is vivid and comes to life: the small island community, the cliffs and the sea and the gray roiling sky. Every detail is described in such utter detail, that it feels real.

Stiefvater has also, once again, taken a legend and made it her own. The story of the sea horses may not be as well known to most readers as the subjects of Stiefvater’s other books (most notably faeries and werewolves), but that’s no matter here — because Stiefvater really crafts her own mythology out of an existing legend. The sea horses of The Scorpio Races are frightening and deadly and beautiful and majestic.

More than anything else, however, The Scorpio Races is a character study: a look at the dynamic between siblings; a slow-building romance; a loner whose strongest relationship is with a horse. The book explores how a select few characters want their lives to play out: not just Sean and Puck, but certain key individuals in their lives.

Perhaps the only major letdown with The Scorpio Races is its pacing. While Stiefvater excels at a slowly building plot, a study in characters, a vivid world-building … here, the story itself seems to suffer a bit for those other elements. In a 400 page book, it’s not until the last 75-100 or so pages that the action really picks up. Those final pages are truly thrilling — but getting to that point is, at times, difficult, despite the beauty and enchantment of the world Stiefvater has created.

Still, fans of Stiefvater’s writing will see a lot of the elements they’ve come to adore in her other books and will find plenty to enjoy within the pages of The Scorpio Races.

The Scorpio Races is in stores tomorrow, October 18th.

Sara | Novel Novice

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