Published by: Scholastic Press on October 18, 2011
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Romance
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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.
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
You have no idea how much it pains me to write this review. This is the book I was looking forward to. The one that made me squeal like an excited 6 year old when it arrived in the mail. People raved about it (it has a 4.13/5 rating on Goodreads).
It just didn’t happen.
I read the first chapter and immediately I didn’t connect with Puck. I didn’t really feel her speaking to me. I just saw the words on the page, but I didn’t actually care about her or get invested. I figured it was early on and surely I’d get attached to her later.
My next annoyance is from a little later, but still the beginning of the book. It’s about the reason why Puck enters The Scorpio Races. First of all, I never got the impression that her entering was a big deal. I was waiting for some big monumental decision but it was basically just like:
“I’m going to enter the race.”
The author, Maggie, did describe the dangers of The Scorpio Races and how brutal the horses are, but I just never got the impression that it was a big deal to Puck. She didn’t seem scared or excited. I just had no idea what she was feeling and I didn’t even know why she was entering (it wasn’t made clear until later that the winner gets a lot of money). When she first said she was going to enter the race, she didn’t seem phased by it, and her family didn’t seem to mind at all.. which is my next frustration.
The Scorpio Races are supposed to be this huge deal. They’re supposed to be terrifying and the sea horses are supposed to be ruthless. Well, her brother Gabe is an asshole. First he announces that he’s abandoning his brother and his sister Puck. Then Puck says “I’ll join The Scorpio Races!” Then Gabe is just like “Okay.” He has absolutely no problem with letting his little sister join the most dangerous event on the island?
As the book progressed, I had to accept the fact that I was never going to care about Puck. I never connected with her. I never felt her emotions leaking off the page. I was never thinking to myself, “OMG SHE HAS TO WIN THE RACE!” I didn’t even care if she won or not because I never got attached to her as a character. Finally, I just came to terms with it.
With each turn of the page, I developed a new frustration. Nothing was happening. There was no action; there were no events; nothing. The first ten pages was Puck deciding to enter the race and the last 20 pages were the race itself. So what the heck happened in between? We had like 380 pages of just “getting ready for the race.” But none of that was intense or exciting. Most of it was Puck training her horse, chatting with neighbours, getting to know Sean, and maybe once every 50 pages something exciting might happen.
I just felt like I had no idea where the story was going. I never cared about any of the characters. I felt like most of the characters outside of the main ones had little importance. I really agree with what Ashley (we have the same name!) said in her review on Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing:
Honestly, I don’t know that I need to say anything more about this book. I spent 400 pages of killer water horses eating people thinking- When is the action going to start? When is this book going to get good? When will something make me care?! And honestly, that never happened. Ever. I never cared about the story line, or about the characters. Ashley from Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing
And I also agree with this point, made by Joe from Goodreads:
Your character-building, Maggie! Here you did the same thing you did in Shiver: alternating narrators for alternating chapters. Authors do it all the time, but generally the reader can hear the differences in narration. Sean and Puck are nearly interchangeable until the final 100 pages when you decide to make Puck a grump. I really liked her as a curmudgeon, by the way. You should have made her that way from page one! How awesome would that have been?!? Instead, there were moments when I became confused because I forgot who was narrating and then couldn’t figure it out without going back and seeing PUCK or SEAN emblazoned under the chapter number. Joe from Goodreads
There were times when I too would start reading a chapter and then go “Wait, who’s point of view is this?” and I’d have to double-check the chapter heading. I didn’t feel a real difference between Puck and Sean. They were both quiet, reserved, and didn’t really care. Neither of them ever got excited or expressed true happiness. They just both felt so monotone.
So this review isn’t completely negative, I will say that Maggie Stiefvater did have a beautiful writing style in this book. The descriptions and the wording of the novel were artfully done — really terrific. Unfortunately it just wasn’t enough to make up for my disappointments.
I’m sorry, Maggie, I really am. I wanted to love this book because I absolutely love horses and I’ve loved similar race stories like Hidalgo.. but this one just didn’t resonate with me. Believe it or not (since most people feel the opposite), I actually enjoyed Shiver more.