Book Review: The Scorpio Races – Maggie Stiefvater

The-Scorpio-Races-Book-Review-Maggie-Stiefvater

Title: The Scorpio Races (2011)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Extent: 409 pages
Release Date: October 18, 2011
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Goodreads Description

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.

Review

Ah, The Scorpio Races. I buddy-read this book with the lovely Sara (Freadom Library) and Estefani (Fiction Jungle) a couple of weeks ago, and it’s actually funny because our opinions ended up at rather opposite ends of the spectrum. Note that I am the black sheep of us three — I ended up not enjoying this book whereas they did.

My biggest problem with The Scorpio Races was that the plot took forever to unfold without any reason at all. The first 30 chapters or so went back and forth between Puck’s and Sean’s perspectives, setting the stage, introducing the characters, building up to the race. That wouldn’t be a huge problem if the characters are doing different things each chapter, but I didn’t get that impression.

I honestly think you could cut out maybe half of this book and still have the same story… or an even more captivating, fast-paced one. I feel like there were at least 10 chapters of Puck and Sean being on horseback just thinking, and another 10 of them spending time together silently without a lot of character or relationship growth. My attention faltered a lot and I had to force myself to read, which isn’t a pleasant thing to do.

“It’s easy to convince men to love you, Puck. All you have to do is be a mountain they have to climb or a poem they don’t understand. Something that makes them feel strong or clever. It’s why they love the ocean.”

My other problem is that Puck’s motivation for joining the race came across as unrealistic and extremely foolish to me. It’s not really ‘fate’ that drew her into the competition as the blurb suggests — she joined because her older brother, Gabe had plans of leaving the island, and her possible death would make him stay… well, a couple weeks longer, that is. She just didn’t think it through and her actions didn’t make sense in that context. Needless to say, I didn’t connect with her at all.

Unfortunately it’s not only Puck that I didn’t connect with. Sean, our other POV character, struck me as very one-dimensional — broody, angsty, and remarkably quiet with a horrible history to boot. Gabe was no better: barely there and underdeveloped. The only character I liked was probably Finn, Puck’s younger brother, who was sweet and caring but didn’t play that big a part in the story.

One of the lines in Finn’s code is that you’re not to say anything about Finn being attractive to the opposite sex. I’m not sure which exact statute governs this, but it’s closely related to the one that won’t let you thank him.

Something about compliments and Finn don’t work.

Thirdly, I’m not a huge fan of dual narration and this book, unfortunately, reminds me why. Puck’s and Sean’s voices sound almost exactly the same — they have similar thoughts, similar personalities, similar ways of talking to others… I would often have to flip back a few pages because I suddenly forgot whose chapter I was reading and need to be reminded. These two were practically indistinguishable, and it did little to add to the story.

Where The Scorpio Races wins (and pretty much the only reason why I’m giving it an extra star) is the setting. Despite the slow-paced plot, this book is atmospheric. I love the idea of Thisby, this quiet, lonely, secluded island whose culture revolves very much around the capall uisce — flesh-eating, wild, ferocious water horses from the sea that were captured and trained to race in the Scorpio Races.

Unharmed, I find myself facing the sea, surrounded on all sides by the capaill uisce — the water horses. They are every color of the pebbles on the beach: black, red, golden, white, ivory, gray, blue. Men hang the bridles with red tassels and daisies to lessen the danger of the dark November sea, but I wouldn’t trust a handful of petals to save my life. Last year a water horse trailing flowers and bells tore a man’s arm half from his body.

The people of Thisby practically live and breathe these horses — there are traditions surrounding the beasts, curses and well wishes, scary myths and bedtime stories told generation over generation about them: what they’re like and what they like, what to do when you see one, what to do when you’re on one… It’s very imaginative and evocative, and I admire Stiefvater’s ability to bring this world to life until of course, the world-building took over and left the plot behind.

Ultimately, The Scorpio Races was too slow and boring for me to really enjoy the story, but I’ll leave you with Sara’s review here — she’s covered other grounds and would provide you with quite a different perspective. 🙂

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33 thoughts on “Book Review: The Scorpio Races – Maggie Stiefvater

  1. I love how we, and people in general, experience the same thing and feel two completely different ways. Obviously you know I completely disagree, but I still love and admire the articulate way you express your thoughts so it never feels like a complaint. I wish I had that quality, love you friend ❤️

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  2. I sort of have the same opinion with this book. I didn’t get to finish it, though. I guess I was disappointed with it because I really loved The Raven Cycle.

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  3. Great review! I’ll admit it, I was surprised to see so little stars for a Maggie Stievfater book, as she is such a popular author, ahah. But I’m glad to hear your point of view about this. It’s kind of annoying when the story takes forever to pick up, and sometimes it makes me lose interest in the story as a whole. The world seems really interesting though 🙂

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    • I was surprised too! I really wanted to like it, but alas – it’s never a good thing when you have to force yourself to read. 😛

      The world is super interesting and honestly I think this could’ve been a beautiful book. I just didn’t like how long-winded it was and how unnecessary (I felt) many, MANY of the scenes were. It’s a shame, but oh well! Better luck next time.

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  4. Ah, sorry you didn’t enjoy this one Reg! I’m really interested to see how I’ll feel about. Admittedly, I don’t know if I’d want to read it if Maggie didn’t write it, but hopefully I’ll still enjoy it! One of my best loves this book and we usually have similar tastes so fingers crossed. Brilliant review like always ♥

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    • Somehow this comment snagged on my spam box and I only saw it today! Oops. For me the writing was beautiful, but it was so SLOW-PACED and it could’ve been that I just wasn’t in the right mood for it. Fingers crossed that you love it! ❤

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  5. I have such a huge problem with long expositions as well! In fact, those are the books that I feel as if I’m forcing myself to read, which takes the pleasure away immediately… Also, various POV’s are only interesting if the characters themselves are very different from each other!

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  6. This is a great review Reg, it’s just a shame you didn’t enjoy this book. I kind of feel like Maggie Stiefvater’s books are a little hit and miss for me; I loved the Raven Cycle series but was not a fan of her Shiver books.
    I think some books can work with a slow plot, like pretty much all of V.E. Schwab’s books, but unless there some interesting character development and world-building it’s not enough to keep my interested either. Although it sounds like the world-building was great in this book it doesn’t sound like the characters were, and I think I’d agree with you on the whole not being interested in 10 chapters of horseback riding/thinking.
    I think the slow plot/character development work in The Raven Cycle, shame it didn’t work in this book though. I do need to read more of Maggie Steifvater’s book, I want to give the Shiver series another go, but I may start with Lamant/Ballard instead! 😀

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    • I actually liked Shiver AND The Raven Boys, but I picked those up so long ago, I’m not sure I’d like them quite the same way nowadays. It’s a shame, because I think her writing is beautiful – it’s just that 10 chapters on what feels like the same action is overkill for me. D:

      I’ve read Lament/Ballad and can’t remember for the life of me what they were about, so I’m going to assume they’re just OK books. I hope you like them, though! As for Shiver, it was the writing that I actually liked… plot-wise it rings too true to Twilight (but with Jacob as the main love interest) for me to absolutely love it, haha. Why didn’t you like it? 😛

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      • I read Shiver a while back so that’s kind of why I’m tempted to give that series another go. The Raven Boys I only read recently so I know I loved those books. I agree with you here writing is beautiful but too much can be a bad thing, and like you said ten chapters seems a bit of an overkill as well.
        I hope so too, I do hope to get in to more of Maggie Stiefvater’s books, like I said I loved her Raven Cycle series so I’m hoping I’ll find more of her books which I’ll enjoy.
        Honestly, I can’t actually remember. I read this book so long ago now all I can remember about the series is the impression that it wasn’t a favourite of mine, I think it was the plot more than anything else but I can’t say for certain.

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        • Yeah, I can understand! You’re so dedicated, though – I don’t think I would give a series I don’t like another try unless it’s really, really popular or it’s really unique.

          Stiefvater is apparently writing a Ronan spin-off series! I really need to catch up with The Raven Cycle before that all comes to fruition. 😛

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  7. The only book by Steifvater that I read is The Raven Boys, and I really loved it even though the story was INCREDIBLY slow. I haven’t read this one yet, but I think I understand your issues with the author’s writing style, having read one of her books myself.

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    • I’ve read The Raven Boys and I actually liked it, but I don’t remember much about it! I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s just as slow – the writing does lend itself to that kind of pacing, and that balance is very hard to strike. I’m glad you could relate, though. 😛

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  8. Aww…I’m sorry you were a bit underwhelmed with this one. 😦 I can completely see where you’re coming from though – slow pacing is definitely difficult. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ❤

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  9. It’s sad that you couldn’t enjoy the book as much as you wanted to. Is it most of Maggie Stiefvater’s books are kinda slow? Haha. I felt the same way for The Raven Boys but it’s beautifully written so I was able to read through and enjoyed it, luckily. But this book does have a very interesting plot, I must say 🙂

    http://laxsourire.blogspot.my

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    • I think so, yeah! I’ve read Shiver and The Raven Boys, and I do remember them being full of good writing but also generally slow, although I’ve read them a while back. And yeah, The Scorpio Races is definitely interesting and unique in its setting and the fact that it’s a stand-alone, and I know some people love it a lot regardless of the slow pacing. 🙂

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