Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book Review: The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater

--by Nicole Mattei-Lincé

With the conclusion of her widely successful wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater now turns the page from one enchanted tale to the next, this time introducing readers to a new breed of mystical creature, the capaill uisce. The Scorpio Races (Scholastic Inc., 416 pages, $17.99) brings readers a dark tale of this “killer horse” and the people that choose to risk their lives in order to ride them.

Part horse and part what can only be described as “ocean,” the capaill instills both respect and fear in the local townspeople. Held every year, the Scorpio Races bring together the conquering instinct of man and the untamed viscosity of the capaill; the mix of energy creates a dangerous force that can either destroy the rider or lead him to ultimate victory. And the victory is your life; crossing the finish line first is just an added blessing. This delicate balance is ultimately upset when Puck, a young girl, decides to enter the race, the first female ever to ride. In order to keep what remains of her family together, Puck goes against everything her ill-fated parents would have wanted by entering the race, as their lives were taken by the very creatures she plans to ride.

In the same form as her previous novels, Stiefvater develops a strong female protagonist that readers can’t help but find a part of themselves in. Whether it be Puck’s determination, often irrational behavior (as she chooses to enter the race not riding a capaill uisce, but the everyday average American horse, Dove), or devotion to her family, there’s a bit of Puck in us all. Nonetheless, Puck’s brazen nature must be quelled, and her balancing opposition is found in Sean. Sean is everything Puck is not, but both share the fiercely independent and single-minded nature when it comes to horses. As they both train for the Scorpio Races, they discover a unifying balance between themselves, one that makes each of them a stronger individual and an equally stronger team--the same idea behind the relationship of the capaill and its rider.

Unlike the wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, The Scorpio Races offers a convincingly dark tale from the opening lines. The common theme among both the climactic race and the novel is death and survival; the childhood mysticism isn’t as apparent as it was in Shiver, the first installment in the Mercy Falls series. Stiefvater has grown to explore the true origins of fairy tales and their dark beginnings. The Scorpio Races is a thrilling tale of dreams and desperation and how far you will go when everything you’ve ever believed in is put on the line.

The Scorpio Races is available today in hardcover wherever books are sold.

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