Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Title: The Scorpio Races 
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Length: 416 pages
Original Publishing Date: October 8th, 2011
Series: Standalone
Where I got it: Audiobook from the library
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
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.

Main characters: 5/5

Puck and Sean were well-developed characters that demonstrated a wide range of motivations and emotions that I could connect to. Puck was a little more hot-headed than Sean, which I liked. Even sometimes when I wanted to bang their heads against a wall, I still liked them as individuals. And better yet, they were realistic (even when the plot was fantastical).

The romance between them was even better. It was a slow romance, and I really appreciate that. Sean and Puck didn't fall instantly in love, in fact it was more like instant dislike. The way they slowly became friends, and then more, was perfectly done. 

I think the best part is how the characters were interwoven into the plot. Have you ever read a book where you feel like the conflict could be the same if you interchanged any character in the story? That's not the case with Puck and Sean. Their conflicts are entirely unique to them and to the story.

Secondary characters: 4/5

I was slightly torn on the secondary characters. I loved Puck's brother Finn: he was amusing and fun and added a lot to the story. I was a little concerned about Gabe because I felt he was very one-dimensional for most of the story (although much of this may have been because we only saw him through Puck's POV).

Similarly, Mutt and Benjamin Malvern, while excellent villains, sometimes lacked realism because I didn't feel any redeeming or human qualities. They were pure evil, which doesn't create relatable conflict.

But then on the other hand, Stiefvater created characters like the Maud sisters and George Holly, who were just a hoot to read. Just as Steifvater brought Puck and Sean to light in the context of Thisby, she did the same with the other islanders, and used them to create the world, and vice versa. The integration of plot, characters and the setting was phenomenal.

Writing style: 4/5

I loved the writing style of The Scorpio Races. Somehow, Steifvater made me feel the vibe of the island and understand the setting better through her writing. Incredible. Steifvater has a way of describing Thisby that makes you feel like you're there with Puck and Sean and the waterhorses. Her style is atmospheric and evocative, and I loved every little bit of it.

The pacing was maybe the only weak spot. As interesting as the plot and the characters were, sometimes the pacing moved too slow and I started to get a little bored. I thought the races would be longer (literally longer, like days or weeks) rather than a 5 minute race, so I was expecting the description of the race itself to take up a lot of the book. Instead it was a very tiny little section at the end, and most of the book was lead-up to the race. I wish there had been a little bit more action.

Plot: 4.5/5 
The plot of The Scorpio Races was fabulous. The combination of the legend combined with the realistic and complex society and the interpersonal conflict was fascinating. The way that Steifvater combined the fantasy aspect with the conflict that occurred between characters creates multiple layers of plot, which I loved. It definitely kept me interested.  

World-building= yes. Stiefvater came up with so many minute details about the world and the Races that made me feel like I was actually there.

Bonus: I also love horses, horse racing and mythology, so the subject matter of The Scorpio Races was right down my alley. 

The only weak side (as I mentioned earlier) is that there was a lack of major plot elements. The book sometimes felt like one long exposition and the Races themselves made up such a minute aspect of what actually happens. I would have liked to see more details of the race itself: more action

Ending: 3/5

I was lukewarm about the ending. There was a lot to appreciate and feel excited about, but I also felt like it was wrapped up in a nice little bow and everything worked out perfectly. That didn't feel realistic, especially after all the lead-up conflict. But yes, okay, I did cry a little still. So.... mixed feelings on this ending.

Best scene: Probably the race itself or the very end scene

Reminded Me Of: Hidalgo

Positives: Strong characters and development, slow romance, world-building, writing style

Negatives: Pacing, pure-evil villains were unrealistic, the ending was a little too perfect

Cover: Not my favorite. I don't particularly understand the red color scheme and I think the font and image are both pretty boring.

Verdict: Fantastic world-building and characters make up for the slow pacing of this unique fairytale

Rating:  8.2 / 10 (5 stars)

Your Thoughts: Have you read it? What did you think? If you haven't, will you be adding it to your TBR list? Let me know!


  1. This book seemed to be everywhere a year or so ago, so I decided to stay away from it until the hype died down... with the result that I pretty much forgot it existed. Thanks for reminding me about it though -I feel like picking it up now :)

    1. That's what I did too! I usually don't get to books right away when they come out. :)