The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. Scholastic Press, 2011. 409 pages. Michael J. Printz Award Honor Book, 2012.
The tiny island of Thisby’s sole claim to fame is the annual Scorpio Races held on the first of November. Instead of ordinary horses, jockeys in these races ride water horses, violent fairy creatures called capaill uisce that eat flesh and drink blood. The winner is not the rider with the fastest horse, but the fastest of those who survive.
Four-time champion Sean Kendrick is just nineteen years old. His skill with horses, both ordinary and fae, makes him something of an island legend in spite of his youth. He is the rider to beat.
Puck Connolly has avoided the water horses and the races all of her life. But now, just one year after capaill uisce killed her parents, circumstances force her to enter the competition. Nothing could have prepared her for the challenges she will face, challenges compounded by her neighbors’ disapproval of a girl entering the traditionally all-male race.
Through the alternating first-person accounts of Sean and Puck, the reader watches the story unfold from startlingly different perspectives on the race and the island’s ancient traditions. Improbably, mutual tolerance between the two gives way to a respect that develops into a solid friendship with a hint of a possible romance. Both desperately need to win. Yet, of course, that isn’t possible.
This beautifully written book hooks readers from the beginning and never lets go. The water horses provide a fascinating, dark presence without overwhelming the narrative. The hurdles Sean and Puck face touch on real-life issues of religion, tolerance and greed. With The Scorpio Races, Maggie Stiefvater has brought something new and refreshing to YA fantasy.
Don’t miss this book!