Book Review: The Scorpio Races

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater


It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.

Talk about one of the most iconic first lines in YA.

Every year in October, the island of Thisby becomes the home of dangerous water horses, who are captured and raced on the first of November during the Scorpio Races. No woman has ever dared to race, until this year. Between a rock and a hard place, Kate/Puck Connolly has decided to throw her hat into the ring—but she faces a mountain of prejudice before it’s time.

On the other side of the island, four-time Scorpio Races winner Sean Kendrick just wants four things: the sky and the sea and the sand and Corr, the water horse he has formed a strange alliance with. But he too, faces challenges: from the owner of the stables where he works to the owner’s son, jealous of all that Sean is that he is not, to the riveting girl brave enough to race her pony on the sands alongside predators.

But two can’t win the races.

I absolutely adored this book the first, second and third times I read this. But for some reason, this 2019 reading felt a little…I dunno. I didn’t immediately fall into the tensely atmospheric world of Thisby, with its sand and sea and grey skies and wool-clad people and grinning murder horses. I still loved it, but I wasn’t as enamored as I usually was. And I don’t know why.

One of the main reasons I love this book so much is the atmosphere.

Fuck the semi-love story between Kate and Sean. It’s rushed and still in training.

Fuck the family drama. Get thee away, Gabe, you suck.

Thisby is the real star of the show here.

Give me your water horses, your blood pacts, your fishermen turned murder-horse jockeys. Give me your blood soaked stones filled with history and pain and sacrifice. Give me Thisby.

It truly comes to life as its own character, and so I spent the entirety of the book trying to figure out how the hell Kate Connolly has spent her entire life loving this island and yet doesn’t know the first thing about the island that makes it so unique and special: the water horses and the Scorpio Races. Like seriously, she’s never snuck out of the house to go to the parade? To watch the horses at the beach? What the hell else do you have going on, girl?

However, this is more than about racing—because the race itself is literally twenty pages long and the ending is rather rushed—it’s about the anticipation of the race, the expanding and changing into something you thought you weren’t while still retaining your core self. It’s about the different kinds of love—the love of family, the love of home, the love of a people, the love of a person, and the love of a horse (even if that horse eats meat instead of hay).

It’s also about the depths people will go to when they are desperate, and how many refuse to swerve off their path when they have Decided, even if that decision might not be the best thought out plan, or a plan that is wholly destructive.

Anywho, off my soapbox.

If you haven’t read this book and are curious and want a darkly atmospheric read—think The Wicked Deep or House of Salt and Sorrows—pick this one up.

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