Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Scorpio Races

Alright, hear me out, this book reminded me of a reading assignment in school. I know if you're anything like me, you'll immediately groan and possibly find you have less interest in this book but you must hear me out: this book is fabulous. You've already traveled along with me as I've read up on Maggie Stiefvater's various other publications: The Raven Boys; The Dream Thieves; Blue Lily, Lily Blue; Shiver; Linger; and Forever and my general reaction to her books was either love it (The Raven Cycle) or hate it (The Wolves of Mercy Falls). Scorpio Races wasn't a book I was originally drawn to. Long gone are the days where I dreamt of owning a horse, no more are the times I read any horse-related book I could grab hold of, this book wasn't really appealing to me by the description. Well, that's a half truth. The idea of blood-thirsty horses coming out of the ocean definitely held my interest but past that, eh.

Still, since I was so sold on half of Maggie's books and disliked the other half, I wanted to try more of her tales. Apparently, The Scorpio Races is her favorite novel and something she holds close to her heart. A number of my friends, some who didn't strike me as the type who would enjoy such a book, vouched for the tale and said it was good, even great, and they loved, loved, loved it.

So I picked the book up during Independent Bookseller's Day. I had to wait a bit before I could start reading it, as I had other books sitting on my nightstand waiting for my attention, but I finally got to picking it up and diving in before I traveled to Florida in May.

The Scorpio Races is layered with meaning and if you look hard enough, you could find so many implications, so much symbolism, that you could easily write a school book report about it. That's why I say it reminds me of a summer reading assignment. It also does because it focuses on young adults in a strange world, learning so much about what it means to be alive, and that was (for me at least) another theme with school books.

Puck Connolly, the only daughter of the Connolly family, lives with her two brothers in the home her parents had prior to their death. On the unnamed island she lives, somewhere that it's implied there's a different language and it isn't America (as there is an American who arrives to the island and it's often commented on how he attempts to pronounce different words that are common on the island), every November sea horses arrive on the shores from the thrashing, late-autumn waves. They're nasty, bloodthirsty, and often known for killing animals in the area. But the people on the island capture the horses, train them, and then race them on the sandy beach. All the while the horses want to return to the ocean, it makes them wild and threatening, and many men fall during the race as the horses run to the waves or attack other horses and their riders.

A lot of readers have complained that the race itself is only a few pages long, but really, I feel this book is so much more than just the race. It's very liberating, as Puck Connolly decides to join the race with hopes of winning to help keep her family home and therefore is the first woman to ever have raced. It's breaking gender roles and stepping forward to a more united future for this tiny island. It's also the politics of the race world that isn't much different from our regular world.

We're also introduced to the island's champion of the races: Sean Kendrick. He's a horse whisperer of sorts, having a way with the water horses that others do not seem to have, and he is also competing for the title and the freedom of keeping his own water horse that has been tamed under his caring hand.

Both Sean and Puck have plenty of reasons to want to win and all are equally important. They're left with the choice of being enemies or working together and, with the chance to work side by side, they follow through and become a force to be reckoned with. Through their friendship, they both learn more about the world and themselves. It's great to see these two character easily calling each other out when needed.

Of course, and this may be a bit of a downside, there's romance to this tale. I do not feel it's romance that builds the entire plot, though. I think that's often the source of ridicule when it comes to YA books: that a book's plot is riding fully on the romantic relationship between the main character and some boy. Often enough for teenage girls, you feel that the world will end if your relationship does, so the emphasis of its "importance" is pretty accurate to that age-range. But there's also nothing wrong with showing that an end to a relationship, or a relationship in general, is not your sole purpose in life. This book could have been just as good without the romance thrown into it, and that's good and what I'd like to see. The plot could continue on its own and for what romance there is, it's not all that bad nor overwhelming.

I really enjoyed this book and felt like I was being transported to chilly autumn months. I could nearly taste the salt water and hear the whinnying of horses. After my general dislike of Maggie's Wolves series and love of the Raven Cycle, I was pleased that this tipped the scales, making me love Maggie's work even more. It's definitely a book I may read again in the future.

Last Week's Review: Shadows On My Heart by Lucy Rebecca Buck
Next Week's Review: Paper Towns by John Green

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