Tuesday, December 27, 2011

BR: The Scorpio Races

by Maggie Stiefvater

Shiver really wasn’t my thing, which was why I was so hesitant to read this book.. I’ve heard marvelous things about it though… but still…

Also, this review is kind of a mess... sorry :p

Summary (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.

My Expectations: not really high, I thought I’d be the odd one out again and dislike it :P
Delivery: this one is odd, I wasn’t feeling it for the first chunk, but then I was swept away and it surpassed all my expectations.
Put-down-ability: Quite a slow start, but seriously addicting towards the end. 4/10

My Thoughts

About halfway through the book, I knew what I was going to write for this review. Well, I thought I did anyways. I was going to compliment the writing and the premise, I was going to say it was kind of interesting but the motivations were weak and the characters didn’t convince me. I was going to say I knew why everyone loved it, but again, it just wasn’t the type of book for me.

But then… something strange happened. I started to realize how much I was enjoying the book and how compelling it was. I realized I had started flipping the pages feverishly and that it was 2 in the morning and I really had to go to class tomorrow morning. I realized as I finished the book the next day when I was supposed to be studying for a test in 3 hours (that I hadn’t even studied for yet) that I loved it*. Truly and honestly, I did. It really is special, and in the best way.

Preface: this isn’t a book for everyone. And if you didn’t like it, I completely understand where you’re coming, heck, I was with you for part of the book.

Pre-pre face: I stumbled upon this post and it helped me understand a lot—it also shows you why it might be a miss book for you. As in, the author herself says she spends 2 pages describing what is summed up as “Sean gets into the truck with Puck, the dog goes in the back, and Sean and Puck sit in awkward silence”. I just wanted to share that and say ‘huh’ because it’s a TIL moment.


Back to the strange thing in which I started liking really like adoring loving the book. It’s unfair to have a review like this because I can’t excuse (can I?) a sub-par beginning but I also want to just sit here and rave about all the things that seemed to simultaneously grow on me.  And a few weeks after this book is still swimming around in my head and I still have those distinct pictures of Sean and Corr or Sean and Puck in my head. The waves. The capaill uisce. By gosh, Stiefvater created one of the best atmospheres for her latest novel and it feels like it just built and built until I didn’t even realize how vividly I was experiencing the novel and imagining the long stretches of sand and water.

And the prose, oh my poor nerves, the prose is incredible, and it makes me sad that it took me so long to recognize it. It has a gentle rhythm that oscillates and pulses and it feels like the words are just poetry and chocolate. Words are used generously but it feels like every single one has its own perfect place, and I can’t figure out how to dole out higher praise. Through the writing, characters came to life and settings became real places, the race scenes rolled through my head like a movie and it was like a sensory overload that I was experiencing just through reading these beautiful words on a page. The author played with my emotions and eventually made me latch on to these characters she had created and care so effing deeply about the outcome of the predicaments… my poor nerves.

And here’s an odd tidbit: if you’re ever asked to analyze something for English class for poetic devices, let it be The Scorpio Races. It’s riddled with assonance and repetition, rhyme and alliteration… it’s easy to pick out the gorgeous metaphors and striking imagery… Stiefvater seriously is a talent.

So to wrap it up, I can say that the pacing wasn’t top-notch because I was disconnected at the beginning, but then I just got completely and utterly caught up with the story and fell in love. And part of me is still conflicted because I feel I might just be building it up in my head because of that ending, but I'll just ignore that part of me for now.

Rating in HP Terms: Exceeds Expectations / Oustanding
Recommended for: hmmm. Horse-lovers. Fans of nice prose, fables, interesting romances, unique premises.
Acknowledgements: 4/5

8.9/10 – because I loved the prose and the characters and the premise. The idea of these killer horses sets a new standard for unique, and Puck and Sean (in which I always refer to him as Sean Kendrick) were two of the more memorable characters of 2011. The problem I had with the novel was the pacing, and I think while much of the book was building up something—whether it was atmosphere, setting, mood—I just can’t justify it and I can say that it was just off. The beginning was too slow and it took quite a while to get into the story but I think when I flipped the last page, I couldn’t even remember that I was annoyed with the first 100.

*as you should now be able to tell after all its appearances on my faves of 2011 lists

source: Ontario book blogger meet-up (thank you!)
author livejournal / twitter


  1. This is, I believe, one of the VERY few books I disagree with you about. I definitely think this is a hit or miss book... And I really didn't like it. I agree that her writing is beautiful & flowery, but I honestly felt like that was ALL this book had going for it, and if I want to spend my time reading flowery purple passages, I'll pick up poetry. I need something more in my novels than just pretty writing.

    And for me, no amount of pretty writing was able to save this from an intolerably dull read.

    BUT, your review makes me happy. As they always do. I feel like I totally know where you are coming from here, even though I disagreed with you about the book overall.

  2. Great review. Even though I've read the whole Shiver series, none of them have really clicked for me, so I was reluctant to try this one - but you may have changed my mind!

    PS, I just understood, finally, your ratings in HP terms! I'm on the sixth book, and that's the one where they receive their OWL grades. I've been a bit dim up until now in terms of that! :)

  3. ^______^ See?
    this is a book that even if you couldn't make it though shiver..this isn't shiver prose this is something else completely but you know its her book and world

    great review

  4. The same thing happened to me! It took me a while to realize just how invested I was, but it ended up being my favorite 2011 release. Awesome review, Audrey.
    Btw, I absolutely loved the book trailer and the music Maggie wrote.

    Maja @ The Nocturnal Library

  5. oh I LOVE this review (I'm late commenting because I didn't want to read anyone else's thoughts until I'f gotten mine down) but you put it all perfectly. I love how you describe the word as poetry and chocolate perfect!

    And yay Sean Kendrick - you have to use both names, you just have too!


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