four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
56-Jan-Feb-2012
user_rating: 
0

A-The Scorpio RacesMaggie Stiefvater is the best-selling author of the Shiver trilogy, a werewolf romance. In her newest fantasy, she draws on Celtic myth.

The Story: Each November on the tiny island of Thisby, a few dozen riders compete in the deadly Scorpio Races--which use capaill uisce, violent, flesh-eating water horses--to challenge their riders' strength and will. Young, headstrong Puck Connelly, the first woman to ever enter the race, is determined to avenge her parents' deaths and win; stoic loner Sean Kendrick, who witnessed his father's death under the carnivorous stallions' hooves years before and has a talent with the wild beasts, is similarly bent on victory. Soon, a quiet love interest develops between the two. But in this battle between horse and human, only one will win--and only one may survive.
Scholastic. 416 pages. $17.99. ISBN: 9780545224901

NY Times Book Review 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Stiefvater's descriptions of the small island community, from the gossipy butcher shop to the sacred hush of the Malvern stables, are poetically rendered and steeped in a belief system that feels entirely real. ... The capaill uisce are exhilarating, frightening creations, far more fascinating in their quivering, carnivorous rage than lovelorn vampires or angsty fallen angels, the current paranormal darlings of Y.A. literature." Jennifer Hubert Swan

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"In the impossibly thrilling The Scorpio Races, Stiefvater--the 29-year-old author of the Shiver trilogy--turns to the Celtic myth of the fearsome water horse, the [capaill uisce], for inspiration. ... With this beautifully executed drama, Stiefvater has established herself as one of the finest YA novelists writing today." Sara Vilkomerson

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"The romance between the two has a refreshingly slow wind-up, allowing the book's plot to take shape around the characters as Stiefvater thoroughly renders their environs with a writerly wash of sweeping cliff-scapes and sea spray, trots and whinnies. ... Stiefvater works this conflict [between Puck's and Sean's aspirations] to the very end of a thrilling book that's as unusual as it is alluring." Susan Carpenter

Critical Summary

"If The Scorpio Races sounds like nothing you've ever read, that's because it is," notes the New York Times Book Review. Critics were captivated by this tale, set in the early 20th century or in a dystopian future (there are cars and televisions, but no Internet, and hordes of tourists from the mainland) and evoking a world sitting uncomfortably between a pagan past and Catholic present, one besieged by mythological beasts and resolute humans. The love story does, of course, take center stage--but it is understated, quiet in comparison to the violence around it. The novel stunned reviewers with its originality; it is simply a standout in a crowded YA fantasy genre. "Stiefvater has successfully plumbed lesser-known myths and written a complex literary thriller that pumps new blood into a genre suffering from post-Twilight burnout," concludes the New York Times Book Review. Burned out readers, take note.