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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.
► I reckon the reasons for which The Scorpio Races weaved itself throughout my beloved favorites could cause an opposite reaction to other readers. Do I care, though? No, because every slow-paced page, every heartfelt and beautiful sentence, every haunting and atmospheric landscape, every inch of Sean’s bloody-stained jacket and killer horse reminds me that if nothing else, The Scorpio Races has a soul, and I’m consumed by it.
“I am here on firm ground, but part of me is already down on the beach, and my own blood is singing I’m so, so alive“
Sigh. I’ve been trying to put my thoughts into words for hours now, but it seems that The Scorpio Races joined the very exclusive club of the novels which mute my abilities to express myself. Puck and Sean’s story is burned into my brain, though, twisting my perception of the reality around me, Thisby’s landscapes forever ingrained in me. That’s why I cannot, I will not leave this space blank and no matter how impossible it seems at this time, I’ll try to do this wonderful book justice. Sorry in advance if I don’t succeed.
“Outside, the wind is a live, starving thing. The sky over Skarmouth is a dull brown, lit by the streetlights, but everywhere else is inky.”
■ If you’re – even a little – accustomed to Maggie Stiefvater‘s books, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the writing is nothing short of spectacular : compelling and beautiful, warming your heart a second and breaking it the next. How could I complain about the slow-pacing if I thought it was perfect for the story? I’ll tell you, I can’t. Is it subjective? Sure it is, and I understand the readers who were bored out of their minds. Yet I wasn’t. Never at any moment.
“Why aren’t you going?”
The question infuriates me. I demand, “Why is it that going away is the standard? Does anyone ask you why you stay, Sean Kendrick?”
“And why do you?”
“The sky and the sand and the sea and Corr.”
■ I genuinely think that your ability to enjoy – to love – the plot depends on your expectations. Does The Scorpio Races revolve around the sea killer horses and the race taking place every year on Thisby’s beach? Sure, but if you think that’s all it is about, you will be disappointed. Many readers pointed it, and they’re right : the race doesn’t start until the very end, and is only an excuse to deal with the real issues in my opinion.
The raw and frightening feelings one can experience when not sure if he – she – belongs somewhere. Through Sean, Puck, Gabe, Finn’s eyes, we witness different ways to answer the difficult question of who they really are and what they need to do to find happiness. Is it staying, whatever it takes? Is it leaving? Is compromising themselves okay to reach their goals? As much as I personally find that the “coming-of-age” label is often misleading, in The Scorpio Races it rises to a whole new level. I couldn’t be indifferent to their struggles, because as strange as it might be (given the fantasy elements) they felt real and heartbreaking and oh so moving. Beware of the harshness, though : many parts are – really – difficult to handle, especially because it contains cruelty toward animals.
■ As usual Maggie Stiefvater nailed her characterization. If I sure didn’t agree with every decision they took, none of her characters felt wasted and all of them provoked contradictory feelings in me. Honestly, they’re just so freaking amazing : well rounded-up, fleshed-out, and a little heartbreaking. Sean, in particular, made it impossible for me to not love him almost instantly : his wildness, his loyalty to Corr, his sea horse, his intensity – that boy didn’t need to talk for me to be lost forever.
“All I know is that Sean Kendrick rode that bay mare and waited until he was nearly over the cliff edge before saving himself, and that the dead speak more than he does.”
► The Scorpio Races changed me, somehow, even if I can’t pinpoint in what way so far, and this story will linger for a very long time in my heart. Now, tell me, what better compliment could I give it? None.