Just a boy and his girl… and his horse?! Read Robert and Bryan’s take on Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races.
Bryan’s quick summary:
Sean Kendrick is the returning champion of the Scorpio Races, an annual competition in which riders try to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Not all of them make it through alive. When Puck Connolly, the first girl ever to enter, joins the race to keep her family intact, both Sean and Puck could never be prepared for what happens next. One race will decide their fate or kill them in the process.
The Scorpio Races is by Maggie Stiefvater
So what did we think? (From a reader’s perspective)
1. (Bryan) Surprises throughout and you never quite know what’s going to happen, including a surprise ending that could have you crying.
2. (Robert) I loved The Scorpio Races. It’s destined to become one of my all-time loved books, I think. The characters are all feisty, there are fantastic interchanges between the prickly Kate and the man-of-few-words Sean Kendrick, and every scene is wonderful. Stiefvater weaves a main plot around lonely characters and a bleak, mostly poor village setting.
The drama builds and builds, yet remains as dark and foreboding as ever, as we sense the inevitable clash – and blood – that every character is hurtling toward, and in some cases, beckoning on.
The pace is sensational, though rising and falling. There were such tense moments at certain scenes, it felt like we were rushing into the end of the book, yet this was less than halfway through.
3. (Robert) The supporting cast is also as juicy as anything, Stiefvater doesn’t waste a single character on cardboard. Matthew “Mutt” Malvern (one of the key protagonists) is as nasty and messed up by his ruthless father who owns the horseyard as anyone could be. Peg, George Holly, the observant Californian, Finn–with his obsessive compulsive disorder, Gabe with his troubled guilt, and Malvern himself: brutally canny and hard-nosed. Thisby is a typical rough working town and surrounding land. The weather in and of itself is a harsh character!
Maybe this could be a really dark Tim Burton movie, or Christopher Nolan. Someone who knows how to make an oppressive, windswept atmosphere, but retain intense relationships.
Not that you need to like horses, nor know anything about them. I don’t, and this was a brilliant read, captivating from start to finish. Unexpected lines and twists in the repartee are delightful.
What did we think from a writer’s perspective?
1. (Bryan) The world was so vivid, I could smell the salt in the air and hear the horses trampling the sand. Stiefvater has a real talent.
2. (Robert) The plot construction is sensational: 1st and second plot points; a fantastic midpoint; a burning fuse throughout the whole story for the climax: perfect, and worth studying.
3. (Bryan) The characters were also complex and interesting, especially our two main characters, which is why I didn’t mind the “inevitable” pairing.
Bonus points (from Robert): There are so many “movie moments”! Fantastic scenes that are evocative and paint a wonderful picture in the reader’s head, with NO TELLING (in contrast to Shadow and Bone). The story has a literary feel, I think due to the excellent writing craft; little use of hyperbole; and the incredible characterizations. Lovely to witness an American author doing such a great job with a mythical windswept Manx-style island of only 4,000 inhabitants. 20 stars!
Bryan and Robert’s Famous Takeaways:
1. Maggie Stiefvater is one of the best I’ve (Robert) read at “action beats” that punctuate dialog, without them taking over. There’s no looking out windows, or taking sips of tea, but much better “twisting manes” “keeps his eyes down at the counter” etc
2. No wasted scenes; no wasted dialog, and more interesting: no wasted descriptions. All descriptions of horses, places etc, are so well put together we don’t need endless adjectives or oohing and aahing over spectacle.
3. If you want to create a mystical phenomenon in your book, set it in a far off town or island to let it fit right into our modern world.
Prompt of the Week:
What is the animal you’ve had the deepest connection with during your lifetime? Describe your connection and how you two understood each other so completely.