Synopsis from Goodreads.
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.
I didn’t think I’d get on with Ms Stiefvater. Partly because it just took me about five minutes to spell her name right, but also because I’ve heard things about her other series that kind of made me think that her writing wouldn’t be for me.
Not negative reviews, not at all. You know Maja, right? Of course you do, she’s brilliant and she’s the biggest Ms S fan that I know of and her reviews (here, here and here) for these books are absolutely wonderful. You’d think if anyone could persuade me to give YA paranormal a bash, it would be her. But alas, I just don’t think they’re for me. Sometimes books just aren’t.
So I was reluctant to start this one. But then so many wonderful reviews from people I would trust with picking my future book list started appearing and I thought “Huh. Why not?”
So I started reading it. And wow.
Like Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, The Scorpio Races is definitely a book that will go down as a bonnet eater*. I have heard a lot about Ms S’ writing but the snippets I’ve read got me all worried. I thought it was going to be flowery and eye-roll inducing. I guess, with a story like this (again, evil horses… gnashing at each other? Come on..), to make it work, you really have to set the scene and you have to make your readers really believe in the story you’re telling.
And.. again… evil horses… on a beach… gnashing at each other… and eating people.
OK, let’s just talk about that. I feel like it’s the huge evil horse in the room and we need to address it… before it eats us. Seriously, this book is probably going to be the most difficult book to recommend to people.
Jo: Oh hey, you should really read this book! It’s amazing, really it is. I mean… it’s just brilliant. The writing is fantastic, the characters are so good and…what? Oh the story…. Well… there’s these horses and….well, they eat people… and possibly each other. But mostly human face.
Friend: *backs away slowly*
Anyway, evil horses aside, let’s talk about the writing again. Wow. Like I was saying before, if you’re going to go out with the story, you might need to go out there with the descriptions and I was really, really nervous that Ms S would be piling it on. Cramming metaphors here, there and everywhere. But in fact, the writing here was really stripped back, subtle, beautiful and almost raw in places. This book is epic, and I don’t mean that in the way that people say it nowadays (people like… um… me) I mean, epic in the original sense of the word.
The writing perfectly set up the world and didn’t overwhelm the story which, actually, didn’t seem as farfetched as I originally thought.
I’m not saying that I believed there are gnashy horses lurking underneath the surf of Britain’s beaches… but let’s say I was on a remote wind-swept island where the locals are a bit… odd. Well, I’d definitely think twice about going for a paddle.
The only quibble I had with this was that I wish the perspectives had been more equal. I didn’t think of this story as Puck’s, yet she got more airtime. I wish Sean, who was possibly my favourite out of the two, had pushed through a bit more. There seem to be a lot of “boys with…” in YA fiction. Boys with scars, boys with bread, boys with… *cough* tridents. But I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that “the boy with blood-red horse” is just as brilliant as they are.
It’s just that his whole backstory and his personality were just so vivid and wonderful I found myself wishing the whole story was told from his perspective. But I guess that’s always going to be the trouble when I always fall for the strong and silent type, right?
I did love the interaction between Sean and Puck though. I loved their conversation and I loved how understated their relationship was. Also, it’s so incredibly refreshing to actually get why two YA characters want to kiss each other in the first place.
So yeah, consider me completely surprised and truly smitten. Although I can safely say I will never read Linger, Wither etc, I can see why so many people love Ms Steivf… Ms Stie..… Ms S. Her writing is so restrained yet beautiful and this is probably the most original story I’ve ever read. If all of my lovely Ms S cheerleaders read another one of hers that reads like this one (The Raven Boys, maybe?) please just chuck it in my direction.
Unless it’s in hardback because… ouch.
*Bonnet Eater: A book that I think I’m going to hate and I say that I will eat my Reader’s Bonnet if I end up liking it…. And gosh, did I like this book. Consider my bonnet eaten.