Tuesday 30 August 2011

ARC Review: The Scorpio Races - Maggie Stiefvater

This review was originally written by me as a guest post for Carolyn at Book Chick City and can be found here.

Stay alive, stay astride, stay out of the water...

Every November, the Scorpio Races are run beneath the chalk cliffs of Skarmouth.  Thousands gather to watch the horses and the sea that washes the blood from the sand.  The mounts are savage water horses.  There are no horses more beautiful, more fearless, more deadly.  To race them can be suicide but the danger is irresistible.

Sean and Puck both enter the Races hoping to change their lives.  But first they'll have to survive.

The Scorpio Races is released in the UK on the 19th of October 2011.

Visit Maggie Stiefvater's website for more information

As a big fan of Maggie Stiefvater's Wolves of Mercy Falls series I was really excited about reading The Scorpio Races.  Although the books couldn't be more different in terms of the worlds Maggie has created they both have her beautifully descriptive style and you are fully pulled into the story.  I did find that The Scorpio Races was a bit slow to get started, I struggled a little to get into the story and found the mythology of the sea horses confusing at first but once it gets going I was completely gripped.

Maggie has created something totally unique and I loved that it was so different to anything else I've ever read - flesh eating sea horses? Yes, that's something I've not come across before!  These aren't seahorses in the traditional sense - no curly tails here - they look like normal land horses but live in the water, only coming out to feed.  Every November the horses start to come ashore in Thisby and the islanders are at risk of death or serious injury if one of the horses find them.  Although they live in fear of the Cappaill Uisce they also celebrate them and hold an annual race across the cliffs and beach.  People come from all around the world to watch the races and the participants face all kinds of dangers, even trying to capture a horse to race on could cost them their lives.  The chances of surviving to the finishing line are low but the rewards for the winner makes it worth the risk. 

I have to admit that I found it frustrating trying to figure out the pronunciation of the Cappaill Uisce (said COPple Ooshka) / Capall Uisce (said CAPple ISHka).  For the first half of the book I was confused every time I came across the words and had to flick back to the pronunciation guide at the front of the book to remind myself how they were said.  I was especially confused every time the word Uisce was used on it's own - was it supposed to be Ooshka or ISHka?  In the end I gave up and just mentally pronounced them they way they are spelt, after that I found reading the book much easier as I wasn't thrown out of the story every time they were used.  That would be my major niggle with the story though and probably wouldn't bother most people as much as it bugged me.

The story follows two of the competitors in the race.  First we have Sean Kendrick who is an expert when it comes to the Cappaill Uisce and four time winner of the races.  His horse Corr is known to be the fastest one on the island and he is easily the favourite to win the race again this time.  Sean has very good reason to enter the race, he is hoping to win his freedom and desperately wants Corr to belong to him.  I loved Sean from the beginning and found it fascinating watching him training the water horses, he was the island's expert and someone that everyone turned to whenever there was a problem with any of the horses.  Sean was the only one who seemed able to calm the horses down and he really had a magical connection with them.

The other competitor we spend time with is Puck (Kate) Connolly, orphaned when her parents were killed by water horses she has every reason to avoid the races but due to circumstances beyond her control she feels like the only way to keep whats left of her family together is to enter.  Puck is such a brave and plucky character that you can't help but warm to her even though you're thinking she must be crazy to even consider racing.  She is the first woman ever to enter the race and this doesn't go down well with the other riders but she stands up for herself and refuses to be pushed aside.  There is a sweet and slow building romance between Puck and Sean but I loved that this didn't take over the whole story, the focus was definitely on the horses and the race.

Anyone who has ever had an interested in horses or riding will love the descriptions in the story.  It really is beautifully written and I felt like I was riding along the cliffs with Puck and Sean as they were training for the race.  It was easy to picture the island and although the idea of flesh eating horses is terrifying they are strangely beautiful animals in my imagination.  If you're a fan of Maggie Stiefvater or have a passion for horses then I would definitely recommend reading The Scorpio Races.  It makes a refreshing change to read a stand alone novel (I seem to be starting so many different series at the moment!) but I would happily re-visit Puck and Sean's world if Maggie did decide to write a sequel.

Source: Received from Carolyn at Book Chick City for a guest review on her blog

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