Book Reviews

Review: “The Scorpio Races,” Maggie Stiefvater

October 25, 2011
Review: “The Scorpio Races,” Maggie StiefvaterThe Scorpio Racesby Maggie Stiefvater
Series: Standalone
Published by Scholastic on October, 2011
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 482

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

What I expected The Scorpio Races to be – and what it was – were two very different things. While Maggie’s writing was as beautiful as always, the story of The Scorpio Races wasn’t one I found myself really ‘enjoying’.

Put simply – if you love horses, you’ll love The Scorpio Races. I’ve been around horses a lot in my life, but I’ve never really ‘liked’ them or found myself interested in racing and showing. There’s a lot of that in this book. About 3/4 of the novel is Puck and Sean preparing their horses, training them and so forth. The actual ‘race’ doesn’t start until page 400-and-something in a 482 page book.

When hearing about The Scorpio Races, I admit that I had likened it to The Hunger Games, except with a huge horse race that would cross cliffs and span days. It would be a bloody match that asked the lone female rider – Puck – to join with the champion, Sean, in order to survive the race. I think the synopsis was VERY misleading in this aspect. What The Scorpio Races WAS was very different.

Basically, Puck is the only girl racing, but there’s another twist – she’s not even riding a WATER HORSE. This took a lot of the ‘oomph’ out of it for me. I wanted her to be the lone female rider who was strong and could manage a capaille on her own. For her to enter the race with her ‘island pony’, Dove, felt a bit silly to me. I don’t want to give anything away about the ending, but I found it very unbelievable. The townsfolk of Thisby talked a lot about wanting her ‘out of the race’ merely because she was a woman, but I felt it was more appropriate that they kicked her out for not even riding a WATER HORSE in a race meant for WATER HORSES!

The world of Thisby was quite well-constructed, as always in Maggie’s books. She’s a great world-builder and does so in a way that’s believable. That being said, most of The Scorpio Races plot was lackluster. I felt like nothing was happening throughout most of the novel, and I found it VERY hard to get into. Still, I give it three-stars because it’s Maggie Stiefvater and any thing she writes about could be readable.

There were a lot of little things I wish Maggie would expanded on. She didn’t explain much behind the water horses and their supersitions/weaknesses. Sean was constantly making circles and spitting into them, and it never really got explained why, or how it affected the horses. Maggie wrote these things in such a way (the bells, red ribbons, red pokers, etc.) that it was simply ‘assumed’ the reader had a pre-constructed understanding of the creatures. I kept hoping Sean or someone would let loose a spiel about the water horses’s characteristics and stuff, but nobody did.

The backing characters felt a little flat, too. I got confused about which of Gabe’s friends were which, etcetera. It was the same with the other riders competing in the Scorpio Races. I wish we could’ve known a bit more about each rider, so that we cared enough about them to hope they won or lost. Which brings me to the race itself. It spanned a handful of pages – about ten. It had been ‘the event’ that I’d been waiting for since the book started, and it was over in a flash. To say I was disappointed is a severe understatement.

The Scorpio Races serve as a backdrop in this book, but I can’t exactly explain WHAT they are a backdrop TO. Of course, there’s the budding relationship between Puck and Sean, but that wasn’t even very exciting. After being a HUGE fan of Maggie’s Shiver series, I was expecting some amazing romance, but it seemed that wasn’t a focus in The Scorpio Races. I think if anything, this book was about the ‘realisation’ of the characters, and how they decided they finally fit in on the island of Thisby. It wasn’t at all what I was hoping to read. And to me, it didn’t warrant an almost-500 page novel.

Recommended to: The Scorpio Races was one of my most anticipated releases of this year, and unfortunately, it fell short. Still, as I said, it’s a Maggie novel, so you can still like the book merely for her way with words. All Maggie fans should give this book a go, but if you’re not a horse-lover, you might struggle.

About Maggie Stiefvater

All of Maggie Stiefvater's life decisions have been based around her inability to be gainfully employed. Talking to yourself, staring into space, and coming to work in your pajamas are frowned upon when you're a waitress, calligraphy instructor, or technical editor (all of which she's tried), but are highly prized traits in novelists and artists. She's made her living as one or the other since she was 22. She now lives an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia with her charmingly straight-laced husband, two kids, two neurotic dogs, and a 1973 Camaro named Loki.


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  • Reply Maya October 26, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    thanks for the review. So this is a stand alone novel? I guess I will be skipping this. For now I only read Lament, and didn’t really like it, even though the author has a really beautiful writing style … but the story was just too flat. I hope Shiver will be able to convince me content-wise.

  • Reply Brodie October 26, 2011 at 12:04 am

    Aw, sorry you didn’t end up loving this! Especially being a huge Maggie fan and obviously there’s hype for any new book she comes out with. I really loved it, but I think it’s a book that people will be split down the middle. I agree about the races though – I was expecting the actual event to be spread out over a longer span before I read the book.

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