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The Scorpio Races – Maggie Stiefvater

May 2, 2012

Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Publisher: Scholastic Press
416 pages
ISBN: 9780545224901
Source: Bookstore

I don’t want to write this review.

I don’t want to write it because that will mean the book is over.

I don’t want the book to be over because I swear to you, this has been my favorite reading experience since I started blogging.

Before I suck it up and face the reality that it is, in fact, over, I need for you to watch this video that was done by the amazing Maggie herself, even the music:

Are you done? I know, right? Wasn’t that wonderful? It was.
OK, let’s do this, folks.

Once upon a time, there was an island. It was a fictional island but in my mind, it was like probably in the area of the Shetland Islands, I’m going to guess? Those are here:

Also, they look like this:

Are you in love, yet? It’s ok. You don’t have to be. You don’t have to be until you read the book but you do have to promise me that you’ll read it. And you should want to. Here, I’ll finally tell you why.

Back to the mythical island.

On this island, lived a tight-knit, stoic people who relied on themselves, the island  and their traditions for survival.

Also, there were these horses that lived in the ocean, yes ocean. They were called capaill uisce (CAP-ul ISH-kuh) and they heavily favored the Celtic lore of the Kelpie. They were more water spirits than actual horses. Though they looked like large, beautiful, sharp toothed, long-eared, equine beings, they were hardwired to lure the islanders to the ocean by hoof or by literal tooth. There is this really detailed comparison between horses and kelpies (which, again, I’m pretty sure were the inspiration for the capaill uisce):

Somewhere in the island’s history, the inhabitants decided that it would be a good idea to start capturing these creatures when the appeared on their shores, every November, and train them to race each other. Crazy is as crazy does and the tradition took root, despite the inevitably, annual casualties that one can assume might sidecar such a choice.

Generations after this tradition was first established, there was this boy named Sean. He was the fastest rider on the island and the capaill uisce whisperer. After winning four of the last four years’ races, he was known on the island and the mainland. Some said he was part capaill uisce, himself. HIs quiet and his talent did nothing to make those who wanted his title love him. Not even a little bit. This eventually lead to “issues”.

One year, another “issue” presented itself, or rather, herself, when a girl named Puck decided to race her regular old land horse in the race. She was orphaned by the capaill uisce and was driven to change her life with the money and power that accompanied the winner of the races. “Underdog” didn’t even begin to describe her.

Because two ends of an arc eventually bend toward each other, Sean and Puck eventually gravitate toward each other, pulling toward a mutual love for the island, horses and self-reliance. Together they fight for their dreams, no matter how unattainable, no matter how small. The book is hardly a romance, which is refreshing. The two build a very unlikely friendship, against all odds and take the island for all of the drama it’s worth.

The book is so very different from anything else I’ve read. I love the idea that it draws heavily from north-western European folk-lore and I love that it is more about action, adventure and survival than about mushy, squishy, eyelash batting romance. I love the way Maggie taps in, so expertly, deeply and honestly, to the ways people connect with animals. That connection was there when she wrote about the wolves of Mercy Falls and it’s here, on the island as she talks about the capaill uisce.

This has gotten less buzz, I think, than other YA choices but it really should be at the top of everyone’s reading list. And, really, it registered, to me, as a general read, rather than harping on the YA Genre, so much. If you haven’t read this, you must read it, right now.

What are you doing?



Or I’ll throw you to the capaill uisce…

4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 3, 2012 4:37 pm

    I also saw those same type of islands when I read it too. I’d really like to reread it sometime. I hated finishing it too.

  2. May 3, 2012 9:20 pm

    Well, Rhapsody Jill swears by this book, and I look to her as the voice of YA from the viewpoint of a non-youth. So I have it loaded on my iPod. I wonder how the audio will fare? I will tell you! It is on the short list, so I’ll get to it in the next few weeks! Love the review. Your love shines through.

  3. May 4, 2012 12:41 pm

    I do want to read this, and now you have convinced me that this one is a must read. Your enthusiasm is very contagious, and I am betting that this would also be a hit with my daughter who is into everything horse at the moment. Terrific review today! I need to read this!

  4. May 7, 2012 2:24 am

    What a great review! I agree with your image of the island… that picture captures perfectly what I was seeing in my head.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t love this book as much as you did- but your review makes me wish I had loved it more! It’s definitely a book with a lot of merit… it just wasn’t strictly my cup of tea. Still, I was glad I read it. And I can’t get over how talented Maggie Stiefvater is, animated that trailer herself and all!

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