Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Scorpio Races: review

Author: Maggie Stiefvater 
Genres: mythology, fantasy, magical realism
Summary: 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. Others die.

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.

It took me about 160 pages and a whole month to like this book. After that, I finished it two days. My thoughts are mixed and still not final, but here they are as of finishing it five minutes ago, so bear with their slightly scatteredness...

I didn't really look at it twice for a long time. I kept seeing the cover at bookstores but didn't get what the hype was about. In fact, I read the backslap of a galley months before it came out and decided it sounded very lame. Then my friend goes, out of the blue, You have to read this amazing book. You'll love it like I do. But I get Sean. Just like that, in italics and everything. I could hear it in her voice. And she's more careful with her recommendations than I am. She also pointed out to me right after, that I was already familiar with the author, Maggie Stiefvater, from the Shiver trilogy. Ohh...well I suppose I could give this a shot.

So I bought The Scorpio Races, suddenly excited to read this strange random book, but I became immediately disinterested. The more I tried to read it, the more my eyes slid off the page, and it seemed as if I was being introduced to the entire town of Thisby in one day, and nothing made sense at all. Books with two different POVs, in my experience, rarely ever turn out good. I felt really unattached to both Puck and Sean, because it was annoying that they didn't even interact at all. But then all the sudden-I don't even know why or when it happened- it became super duper good. That's when I couldn't put it town and my hands started to sweat and I didn't ever want it to end. But it did, and now I'm writing this.

One of the main problems I had in making it grab me, was the setting. I finally dubbed it magical realism because I seriously couldn't categorize it and I needed that grounding: knowing where the hell Thisby is,  and when the story took place! They seem to live on this small island and trading with a kind of coin, but then the tourists come in squeaky clean white tennis shoes, and reporters surge in with huge flash bulbs on their cameras. When that happened, my image of that particular scene turned sepia against my will. To make myself feel better reading it, in my head I came up with a little background: Thisby is a small island off of Ireland. The story takes place in the 1920's. There, all better now.

How old is Puck? I couldn't get a clear picture of her. Though, I loved the fact that she was the first woman to ever ride in the races, especially since she isn't on a capall uisce (CAPple ISHka-water horse), but her own small and normal horse, Dove. She doesn't enter the races for the normal reasons, but she is incredibly brave and sticks with what she thinks is right.

Sean I felt like I knew my entire life, his character development is outstanding, one of the best I've ever read, and I got him the way you're supposed to. Which means kind of all at once and not at all. ...That made better sense in my head. Anyway, viewing the world through Sean, it's truly deep and makes you think. Also his connection to Corr is beautiful.

Recently, I read one of Ursula Le Guin's essays, Stress-Rhythm in Poetry and Prose. (If I'm remembering the correct one.) About two thirds through The Scorpio Races, I felt myself remembering that essay, noticing how well everything was being said. These descriptions placed perfectly with too few commas, and every single thought Sean had, carefully calculated to make you feel something. It worked. The rhythm and organization of everything, it's like magic. 

The legend the book is based on, water horses, was completely unfamiliar to me before reading, so I didn't have any idea what to expect, especially from the vague summary we're given. But she does a good job explaining, so pay attention in the beginning, because I didn't and now want to go back and reread the parts I kind of skimmed over.

I don't think I'm forgetting to mention anything...I'm still in that high you get after reading a great book. I may add to this later, because right now it's really hard to explain why I like and dislike many parts of it.

Maybe this won't be your type of book. I don't even like horse stories. But the mythology is definitely a pull, once you understand it. It's worth giving a try. The Scorpio Races is on a whole other level than her Shiver trilogy, and I wouldn't have even guessed by the writing or genre, that the same author wrote both.


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