Published: 19th October 2011
Publisher: Scholastic UK
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.
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.
Whilst initially hesitant to pick this up, I think that it's actually my favourite of all Maggie Stiefvater's books. The lyrical prose that haunts the Wolves of Mercy Falls series is present, as are the complicated personal themes, but for me, everything has been taken up a notch in this latest work.
Everything about it is just so desperate; the island, Puck's desire to win, Sean's worries that he'll lose the only thing he cares about, Gabe's need to leave for the mainland. Its's all so desperate, so empathetic and so completely heart-wrenching. Maggie really captured the emotions of every character and put them forward in a believable and utterly convincing way...what do you mean these people aren't real?
I loved the sense of life of the small island--from the feeling of isolation felt by some, to the feelings of freedom felt by others, and the dynamics across the whole island. This book is about more than just a race with killer horses, it's about human interactions and emotions and reactions.
At first, I struggled to like Puck. I thought she was really stupid entering the race with her non-water horse horse, convinced she was being petty and idiotic. But the longer I read, the more I began to think she was doing the right thing, and I actually became convinced, genuinely convinced, that she could win this, even though the other horses were faster and stronger, more bloodthirsty, and most of the riders had it out for her. Sean and Finn will forever battle it out as my favourite character. Finn reminded me slightly of my own brother, I adored his nature, his little quirks and how sweet he was. Sean was my perfect love interest, mysterious and slightly broken, with a self-assured take-no-prisoners attitude. I loved him, I loved his dedication to the animals in his care, I loved his feelings for Puck and his interactions with those around him. George Holly was another character I loved, he was a perfect device for learning more about Sean, whilst being an interesting character in his own right. All the secondary characters had their own personalities and moments, something which added to the richness of the story.
The actual race itself was a minor part of the plot, and the events of it were what I expected to happen. Despite that, my heart was in my mouth for the duration, and I had that fantastic moment where you desperately want to find out what happens, and yet are terrified to turn the page. It takes great storytelling to create that for me. It had to happen that way, really, and I'm glad it did, but it was the events after the race that I loved the most. Puck's stand against Malvern wasn't what I expected, but was a fantastic conclusion to her storyline. I loved how everything ended up for her, it wasn't too unrealistic but it was't too sad either, as I think I would've struggled with that. Sean's conclusion was more bittersweet, but the actual very end of the book was so, so heartwarming. It was the perfect ending in my opinion.
This is a fantastic addition to Maggie's novels, it's haunting and very introspective and I absolutely adored it.