The Scorpio Races was far and away the best book I read in 2011.

You know how some books just suck you in, and hold you captive, and are just completely magical and perfect? And when you finish, you are so happy because it’s a perfect ending when you didn’t think that was possible five pages ago, but your are also bereft because you’ve left that world? That’s how The Scorpio Races was for me. Thank goodness books can be re-read!

The story begins with the ominous and intriguing words, “It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.” For on the island of Thisby, every November, the deadly Scorpio Races are held. A brutal and dangerous ride along the beach on capaill uisce, vicious and deadly water horses, who emerge from the sea and must be caught, and controlled, if you want to survive the races.

Kate “Puck” Connolly is the first girl to ever enter. She is driven by a desire to change her family’s fortune and stop her elder brother from leaving for the main land. No one wants her in the race, and Puck isn’t even sure if she’ll survive it, but help comes from an unexpected quater, four times champion and loner, Sean Kendrick.

The thing Maggie Steifvater really excels at is mood and atmosphere, and the writing in The Scorpio Races is as beautifully descriptive and evocative as in her other books. The setting, while being richly described, was also vague. As was the period events are taking place in. Which made it easier to believe in the fairy tale like aspect of the water horses and the rituals the riders had. It also gave the book a kind of old world charm. It is also full of amazing characters who are all so richly and well drawn I think they might be out there living on Thisby.

The Scorpio Races begins slowly, but the undercurrent of tension, caused by Puck announcing her intention to ride, builds and builds and after chapter forty I simply couldn’t be separated from this book until I had finished. It’s heart pounding, nail biting, stay up way past bedtime stuff.

I was so invested in both Puck and Sean’s stories, The Scorpio Races is told in a duel narrative, and so you get a chance to see into both their hearts and minds. I was desperate for them to get a happy ending, while being sure it couldn’t possibly happen. There can only be one winner in the races, and they both have everything to lose. Without giving too much away, the ending is perfection. . . and had me in floods of tears.

The romance is less, fornt and centre than in The Wolves of Mercy Falls Trilogy, but I loved it more. There is more hesitation and self consciousness and so I was willing them to give in to their feelings. Also Sean Kendeick might be a man of few words, but the ones he does utter are pretty much perfect. “It’s late for that Puck” – oh happy sigh! Plus bread is clearly the new chocolate for those of you courting.

So yes, my book of the year. If you haven’t picked it up yet, you really must. It’s gorgeous and heart wrenching and a keeper.

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