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Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Narrator(s): Fiona Hardingham and Steve West
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Publication Date: October 18, 2011
Source: audiobook, purchased
So, I’ve had The Scorpio Races sitting on my shelf since it was released in October. Being that it’s a Maggie Stiefvater novel, I imagined I’d need to read it immediately, but since it wasn’t the continuation of a series, I guess that pressing need to read it wasn’t, well, pressing. That’s not to say I wasn’t excited to read it…far from it. I even kept it at the top of the stack “to be read in the very near future”. Alas, life and other obligations happened, and so it still has not been read.
I did, however, purchase the audio in a BOGO sale on Audible.com, along with Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick, another novel I’ve been meaning to read since its release but just haven’t found the time. I am so very glad I listened to the audio for The Scorpio Races, not simply because I can now pronounce capall uisce – the name for the deadly Irish water horses – but also because the accented rendering by both narrators made the whole experience feel more authentic. (Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that the yummy voice of Sean has a yummy face to go with it.) (By the way, the pronunciation of capall uisce is something like this: kah-pull ish-kah. Yeah.)
Now, having heard this tale of a race where the contestants ride killer water horses, I wish I’d found the time earlier to read the novel. I wish when it was first released, and there were naysayers and those complaining about the lack of action, etc., I could have said to all of them, “You have entirely missed the point of this story.” Yes, every reader is different and every person wants to take something different away from a story. What I took away from The Scorpio Races was not a new concept: every action has consequences. Every choice we make in life can take us down any number of paths and lead to many more possibilities. I loved the open-endedness of this novel. I never tried to guess where the story was headed; I was just happy to be along for the ride.
The love story in The Scorpio Races isn’t really a love story, at least not in the traditional sense. There is plenty of love amidst the pages of this novel; it’s just not always romantic. When love does finally find its place between Puck and Sean, it’s not all-consuming or immediate. It develops slowly over the course of their training for the races. It’s a quiet, somber thing that happens between these two characters, but it’s real and very much befitting the circumstances with which they came together in the first place.
Kate “Puck” Connolly is an honest and forthright young woman, still dealing with the loss of her parents and facing the loss of her older brother, though each to different circumstances. Puck was such a breath of fresh air in a genre ripe with stereotypes and unimaginative characters. Her decision to ride in the race isn’t heaped in feminism or her need to prove herself. Instead, it stems from her earlier loss and the need to keep her family’s house, even if Gabe is set against the whole idea. Her older brother has already given up and made other plans, but Puck will not give in so easily.
Sean Kendrick is an enigma. He, too, has lost a parent to the dangerous capall uisce, though his loss is no result of a mere accident. His father rode in the Scorpio races and died doing so. And now, Sean competes in the race each fall. In fact, he’s won for the last four years. He is a loner but also lonely. Sean’s only real friend is his red water horse, Corr. But Corr is not his, not really. Just as Puck is trying to save her home from the clutches of Benjamin Malvern, Sean wants to make Corr his own horse, much to the dismay of his owner, Mr. Malvern.
And, so, Puck and Sean are united against a common foe. But only one of them can win the race. Regardless, they stand by each other, even when warned against it…and despite an awkward first encounter. It’s hard to believe that on an island of 4,000, they never made each other’s acquaintance, though maybe they never needed each other before this.
Even if I couldn’t stand the two main characters, the remaining cast would have been enough to make me love this story. From Finn, the tinkering, laughable younger brother to Dory Maud and the flirty American George Holly, who tends to make everything his business…well, I’m not sure I could pick a favorite character. There was certainly a lot of love to go around, even if it wasn’t the kissing sort. And the story was so much better for it.
I love when a story, no matter how dangerous or sad, makes me want to live it myself. I can’t immediately identify with what the characters have gone through or what they’re going through at the time of the story, but I still felt so connected to them. Maggie’s lyrical, haunting prose strikes again, I suppose. No matter what critics or even fans of her previous works have to say about it, I adored this story immensely and would recommend it to readers who can keep an open mind and those who find all facets of a story engaging, not just the action or the romance.