Saturday, February 18, 2012

Book Review: The Scorpio Races

This was one of the books from 2011 which I really wanted to read before the new year but just didn't have a chance, happily it appeared in the school library sometime while I was away (I'm starting to think I should just do a feature in June once I've had a chance to track down and read all the 2011 novels). I was a bit cautious going into this book since I liked Lament quite a bit on it's reread but didn't like Shiver and, while there are a few authors who change up styles often enough that I only like part of their works, normally that doesn't happen so I was half expecting to really dislike the book. Thankfully that wasn't the outcome, even though I still like Lament better.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
I think this is a pretty neat cover for a few reasons. One, I like the font used for the title itself (the little ~ under the o reminds me of a wave which I'm sure was the intent), the red background cover works well considering how dangerous the races are, and the silhouette (which I'm assuming is of Puck and Dove) clearly shows that this is a book about horse races, not about racing some odd kind of scorpion.

Summary: Every November the island of Thisby hosts the dangerous and infamous Scorpio Races where people (ie men and boys trying to become men) tame horses that come from the sea itself (capaill uisce) and then race then along the beach for fame and glory. Puck actually doesn't know too much about races, her family never followed them and since the capaill uisce killed her parents she and her brothers haven't wanted anything to do with them, but in a desperate bid to keep one of her brothers from leaving the island and to get the money to buy their home she decides to race on her regular horse Dove and take her chances. By contrast, Sean is the reigning champion who plans to race on his almost-tame Cor in order to win the money to buy Cor from his owner. 

The Good: It's an odd little detail but I was surprised at how the American tourist who seems rather interested in Sean comes across. Normally tourists in stories are loud and stupid, especially if they're Americans, but here he felt almost like a audience surrogate and  a clever one at that so I liked his inclusion. As for the bigger picture I liked the idea of the story, it felt like Misty of Chincoteague meets Hildago with some kelpies thrown in for good measure, that's a fairly creative mash-up and it never feels like Stiefvatater has ripped off those stories, rather that this is a story with some similarities to them. In short, the concept makes an old idea feel original which takes skill and is well-grounded in it's setting. It's also a great example of how a setting should affect all parts of a story, none of the conflicts would exist without the island and the culture it's created, so that really pleased me.  

The Bad: A lot of this book consisted of "Puck and/or Sean wondering if they should do something" which, as I've said before, really isn't my cup of tea and the story does take a little while to get going. It's not slow paced per say but to give a good description of the story, like the one I put up, you have to mention things that don't crop up until almost halfway through the story. There is plenty of character interaction and a few subplots that happen but in the end those don't end up mattering a that much and I did just get a bit bored by the earlier bits.

Overall it was an enjoying read and I'd love to see a movie version come to fruition, I know the rights have been bought so who knows where it'll go from there. Now if you'll excuse me, Stiefvater has created a recipe for a fictional dessert she put in the book and I need no excuse to go bake cakes, especially book inspired ones.