Monday, June 3, 2013

The Scorpio Races - a book review, or My Little Pony Death Race

The Scorpio Races
Maggie Stiefvater
416 pages

This is a book about water horses. They are not called sea horses because that's something else entirely. These sea water horses are nothing like Snorks. They kill people. So what do the residents of Thisby Island do to contain the threat known as capaill uisce? They throw a horse race of course!

Which, you know, makes total sense. A deadly horse race so people can win money and fulfill their wildest fantasies. Which, for Kate Connolly (known as Puck) is to rescue her dilapidated farm. Not to, you know, move to the Mainland to escape the deadly threat of the water horses (are you with me so far?).

Sean Kendrick is out to be Sean Kendrick. He has a tortured past and a tortured soul and he wants to win the race so he can be free of his boss. Which is more admirable than saving a farm and NOT moving away from the threat of bloody beach horses.

I'm not even kidding. Half the time I'm reading this book I'm saying to myself "Why the fuck don't you just move?" And "Oh you found a dead sheep and your children can't go out after dark because they might get killed? WHY DON'T YOU MOVE TO A SAFER FUCKING PLACE?"

The answers border on the asinine: "Thisby is my home!" or "My heart is in Thisby and nowhere else!" The amount of Shell Shock a resident actually goes through while living on Thisby is mind boggling. Oh and everyone is poor and half the people want to move to the Mainland but don't. They want to sit in their homes located on mud holes and let the guy who runs the island treat them like third class citizens.

Which, you know, makes total sense.

So what did I like about The Scorpio Races? I love the way its written. I love the mythology of the island. I love that it's a unique subject in a genre that needs more uniquey-ness. Most might find the plot boring, but being a resident of Derby City; there's something about horses I will always find compelling.

Thisby is a bit like Sleepy Hollow; a unique story about a town's local legend, it's got a slow creepy chill to it, and it's a welcome change to an ever expanding genre. I'm okay with it. Except when the residents are completely oblivious as to how not to die.

Two Out of Five Fucks Given

Full Disclosure: I read this on my Kindle.

Side Note: Sean and Puck almost remind me of Dagny and Rearden from Atlas Shrugged. The two are extremely head strong, stubborn, and come across as self-righteous in the worst possible ways.


  1. I read one of Steifvater's other books, Shiver and I didn't really enjoy it so I was kinda on the fence about reading this book, but now I don't think I'll bother! Great review, I loved your honesty!x

    1. Thank you. I was kind of on the fence about whether or not I liked it, but I liked and didn't like it for different reasons.

  2. I liked the race and its aftermath probably the least about the book. For me, the best things were the small things: I loved the way it was written quietly, I loved the issues with Puck's brother, I loved Thisby in a setting-as-character way and how everyone felt a connection to it despite the dangers of the horses, and I loved Sean Kendrick's interesting connection to the water and the horses. I loved the mythology of the horses. That kind of thing. I think listening to the audiobook while reading along on the Kindle only served to enhance the story for me and made the experience bigger and better.

    I hate that you didn't love love love this one, but at least you found some things to like about it and that's something good. I've read two other stories by Maggie S. and while they aren't as nicely written as this one, they are still well-written with a language that I think is specific and identifiable to her, which is kind of neat.

    1. I always hope I have good things to say about books that I don't mesh with. I think I've explained to you more than others (because it contains spoilers) why I didn't like the book, why it didn't mesh with me.

      I just couldn't get over the characters. I couldn't get over their... inability to move on, get over things, whine, whine, whine.

      I could give the audiobook a shot. Could.

  3. I really loved the world building for this one, which kind of won me over. My main problem was the pacing, I mean, the actual races aren't until the end of the novel, so half the time I was thinking, "yeah, yeah, these descriptions are really pretty and all but GET TO IT." I didn't really like Shiver- honestly it feels like it was written by a different author. Do you plan on reading The Raven Boys? I had problems with it, and didn't like it as much as TSR, but I thought it was okay.

    1. I plan to read The Raven Boys. I try not to buy into the hype of things, but I do have a copy of it, and I'll get around to it... eventually.

      I didn't mind the slowness of the first part, of getting around to everything, but at points I was bored to tears. "Oh she's feeding the horse again. This is just great." Or "Oh Sean is complaining in his head again. This is just great."

      It's really the writing--to me--that stands out in this one.

  4. I think one of the best parts of this book is the island and the complicated relationship that these characters have with the dangerous place that they live. I wouldn't want to live there, but I feel sufficiently convinced that these characters would. And I admire them for their dedication to Thisby. Part of the strength of Puck and Sean's bond is their tie to the ocean and the land. They certainly aren't the first people in history who have fallen in love with a place or a thing that is also deadly. And who's to say that emigrating would make them happier? I also don't think that making sport out of taming and riding the horses is anything too farfetched. it reminds me of people who love extreme sports that have high casualty rates.

    However, I get that this book is not for everyone. Although I thought it was slow at first, I just adore Stiefvater's writing and how she's able to take small scenes and make them vastly meaningful. But not everyone will see her writing that way.

    I also agree that this audiobook is fantastic.

    1. I had that same thought as well, but I'm not that kind of person, so I question it. A lot. I can understand that they're bonded to the island, but I ultimately believe if your life is crap because of where you live? You shouldn't live there. So--using my sense of logic, not theirs--I can't understand them.

      I love, love, love and adore, adore, adore her writing. It's amazeballs. Yes. Amazeballs.

      I might have to give the audiobook a listen.

  5. You know, I didn't have that complaint about Sean. Call me a cheeseball, but I totally get the whole connection to the land thing. It's how I feel whenever I'm in Maine. I always feel at home there. But you're right, some of Sean's reasons are less honorable than Puck's, but that was not enough to stop me from getting totally sucked in. I guess I always felt like Sean loved the animals and he was trying to protect them from his boss.

    Also, now I'm thinking about George of the Jungle. You know, that scene where Brendan Frasier is running around with a horse and all these women are watching and swooning and the other guys are like, "What is with chicks and horses?"

  6. Wow!
    Well, Im pretty sure I understand how you feel about this book!

    great review though, i hadnt even heard of it before.
    Also, feel free to stop by my blog to enter my $100 Blogoversary Giveaway!

  7. haven't read it but it's definitely been on my list

  8. I had to laugh because of your review - even though I love this book :-)

  9. Dude, you need to get an email subscription. Awesome blog!

  10. I really enjoyed The Scorpio Races too – it’s my favorite Stiefvater book by far! I enjoyed the slow burn and the buildup especially, and I was really invested in Sean and Puck’s stories.

  11. I'm someone who likes there to be a strong romance line and that wasn't really happening in this book. It also gave a lot of detail and horse knowledge. It wasn't quite a fast read and that's what I really like. I ended up not finishing it, but didn't hate it.

  12. This review cracks me up. I had much the same feeling as you did while reading, namely, an overwhelming urge to grab the main characters by the shoulders and yell, WHY ARE YOU STILL LIVING ON THIS INSANE ISLAND??!?

    Ahem. The language was lovely, and I can appreciate the atmospheric mood to her writing, but it was difficult for me to get over the slow pacing and some other idiosyncrasies that you pointed out. I'll have my review up on my blog shortly, if you'd care to check it out. ( Thanks again for the entertaining review.

  13. This was assigned as a must read in my dtrs school, it looked interesting, so i read it too, along with my father. Very interesting, sweet love story, but action during race. It held the interest of a 14 yr old as well as my father who is 83. Loved by all.
    Highly recommended Alaska Bear Viewing

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