The Scorpio Races is based on the hard-to-pronounce mythological creatures capaill uisce (copple ooshka), also known as water horses. These aren’t the beautiful and sweet horses that you may be picturing. No—these are man-eating, dangerous horses that live underwater. The people of this island capture these ferocious, but majestic beasts and try to tame them long enough to race them in the annual Scorpio Races. Most people end up getting trampled, eaten, or drowned in the races each year, but the promise of wealth makes the risk worth it for many islanders. The main characters, Puck and Sean, have different reasons for competing, but a common interest and love for the island creates an unlikely pair.
Wow, this book was intense. It honestly would have given me nightmares if I read it as a kid. It is meant for young adults, but it even might be too intense for some preteens. There is a pretty long build up to the final races in the novel, but I think that it gave Stiefvater enough time to really develop the setting and characters. Her descriptions made me feel like I was actually on this island. I was terrified, but also captivated by the idea of these water horses. She really makes you feel the struggle between wanting to leave the island, but also being enchanted by its beauty. The whole premise was haunting and fascinating at the same time. It took me a few chapters to really get into the characters and plot, but after that I couldn’t put the book down. The overall premise is fantasy, but the general idea isn’t too far from reality. It would be like people trying to capture and tame wild cheetahs to be able to race them—maybe some people would hold on long enough to be cross a finish line and maybe people would get pulverized by the hungry cheetah.
The chapters switch back and forth between the perspectives of Sean and Puck. I enjoyed getting two different motivations for competing in the races and realizing how different, but also how similar, both characters were. At first I thought Puck was a boy and I was excited to have a book that wasn’t about romance. However, Puck is actually a girl and there is somewhat of a romance. Luckily, the romance is slow developing and it isn’t the main point of the novel. My only complaint about this book was how long it took to reach the climax, but I don’t think that putting it earlier in the book would have made the book any better.
I finished this book a few weeks ago, and I still can’t stop thinking about it. I would definitely recommend this book to high schoolers or older. It is great for people who love stories about competition, character development, and a hint of fantasy.
If you read The Scorpio Races, let me know what you think!
* * * * 4/5 Stars