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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio RacesSome race to win. 
Others race to survive.

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.

First Look: ***** When I first heard about this, my initial reaction went something like this: "NO WAY!  An actual, recent YA books about horses?  Okay, somebody's out to make fun of me, because this can't be real." 

Folks, I have to stop this review to tell you a story.  When I was a kid (read: younger than I am now.  Elementary school), I devoured horse books like they some kind of chocolate that multiplied faster the quicker I ate it.  I loved them.  And then I read all the horse books in my school library (and now, I'm not kidding about that.  They had a little sticker on the side with a picture of a horse.  I read them all...).  Then, I got older.  There weren't any new horse books coming out that would take me more than half an hour to read.  So I sighed sadly, and went on a huge fantasy binge, still hoping for those horse books in the back of my mind. 

Setting: *****   The setting honestly made me confused.  I couldn't tell if it was a dystopia or not at first.  I couldn't figure out where on Earth we were.  It didn't really explain much.  Throughout the book, though, I managed to figure out that it's a rather historical--probably--setting.  In Europe somewhere, maybe England or something. 

Even though I had to work so hard to figure it out, I still ended up liking it.  I loved how Stiefvater managed to get across the atmosphere of the place.  Atmosphere is something I shall definitely blog about in the future, because it's so important, but you almost never hear about it.  Anyways, I liked the detail of the setting, how it seemed so real.  I also love how the water horses were incorporated into it. 

Characters: *****  Awesome. Amazing. Wonderful.  Realistically....realistic.  I'll stop adjective-dumping right now.  It's not often when you get to read about characters like these.  I really grew to love them as real people throughout the story.  Puck was so headstrong and emotional and...awesome.  I could really relate to Sean's relationships with his horses.

The supporting cast was fantastic, as well.  Finn was such a realistic brother.  George Holly made me laugh.  I hated Mutt.  And so on.  Sometimes, a good, memorable supporting cast is even tougher to pull off than the main characters.  Even the horses made awesome characters.   

***** At one point in the story, I desperately wanted Puck to win the race.  I also desperately wanted Sean to win.  Maggie Stiefvater is an absolute genius for doing this to me.  The plot was so utterly, fantastically believable.  I wanted to simply tear through it to find out what was going to happen. 

What Stiefvater really did well with the plot, though, was the tension.  It was constant, from the first page to the last.  It never, ever let up.  It turned the book into a big vacuum, just sucking you in.  And also, it's definitely worth noting that there was no insta-love.  No love triangles, either.  This is a huge breath of fresh air in today's YA literature.

And the ending.... Oh, the ending. It was beautiful and heartbreaking and perfect.  I didn't cry, but I was as close as I ever get.  Which, for me, is the equivalent of sobbing my eyes out.  It's been a long time since I've read something so wonderful and sad at the same time. 

Uniqueness: ***** One hundred thousand million percent unique. This is almost a shame, because I'm desperately in need of more books like this.

Writing: ***** Wow. I can't decide if I want to hug Stiefvater for writing this much awesomeness, or go cry in a corner because my book isn't up to this level. Her writing was FAN-TAS-TIC. I'm not sure how to describe it, but I just got the feeling that the writing was so incredibly honest. It made the story seem real, and her voice and the characters' voices really shined through. Writers should read this book, as a lesson, to try and figure out how on earth she does it.

Likes: I have to pause my review to tell you another story. I finished this book in the car. After I was done, I sat in a daze and stared out the window. Just then we happened to pass a horse farm. In the middle of a huge pasture, there was a lone foal walking through the snow. And it was so incredibly beautiful, especially after finishing this book, that I might've cried, had I been that type of person. That's what kind of effect this book had on me. Little bit of postivie Mockingjay Syndrome here? I think so.

Stiefvater knows her stuff, when it comes to horses. Not only did she accurately describe riding and tacking up, but she also understands the bond between horse and rider. It's something so many people overlook, and it makes the story impact the reader so much more.

Not-so-great: This review does not begin to give this book justice.

Total Score: I'm in love with this book. It's amazing. Incredible. The characters were so honest and real, and the writing style was simply gorgeous. And it's so different from other books on the market, too. I finished this book a few days ago, but yet I can't stop thinking about it. It's emotional and heartbreaking and beautiful. I'd say that words cannot describe this book, but...they can, and do. The entire book does. You just have to read it to find out. A must-read.

PS: If you haven't seen the trailer, you definitely should. It's lovely. 
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