Not Enough Bookshelves: Book Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stievfater

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Book Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stievfater

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.


  1. I'm reading this one RIGHT NOW – Oh. My. Word…As I'm reading, I'm not sure how I'm going to be able to explain it for my review, haha…Amazing. Love it!

    Also: Love your cover of it! It's always fun seeing the international covers of books I know :o)


  2. Adding to my wish list! Thanks for the recommendation!


  3. I AGREEEEE!!! I adored this book with all my heart. Sean is the king of the understated swoon. I wasn't a huge fan of her werewolf books, but this one was so freakin' fantastic. Definitely my fav of 2011 too.


  4. What an amazing (but subtle) romance! And I agree–this is definitely one I'm going to be re-reading for a long time to come. Great review!


  5. I one hundred percent agree with everything in this post! I stayed up until almost 4am finishing this book because I absolutely could not put it down. Stiefvater's best yet. I am also terribly in love with Sean Kendrick.

    ♥ LW

    ps- (my review of this book:


  6. Oh, thank goodness! I have read 'Shiver' by her and hated it. I thought her writing was poignant and beautiful, but the relationship was just too much for my tastes. The premise in this one sounds so great. I have this on my Kindle. Your review just made me bump it up a few notches. Great review! 🙂


  7. This is such a terrific review, Alexa! I loved this book, too. DEFINITELY my favorite read of 2011 (well, I finished in 2012). It isn't often that I say a book is perfect, but this one is. Golly gee, it's perfect. I agree with you about the romance! It's not front-and-center, but it's so wonderful. And the dual narrative really worked for me, too.


  8. Wow. With every single review I read, my excitement builds. I love how you described it all! And I love romances that aren't ever the main focus of the book. I cannot get into reading this book soon enough!


  9. I keep walking past this book at the bookshop i work in and am so tempted to buy it. I loved the shiver series and lament so i will have to add it to my wish list 🙂
    great review!


  10. oh, this is such a compelling review.

    i am going to have to get this one nnow

    x Nomes


  11. Great review, Alexa!
    I won this in a competition a while ago but I've not got round to reading it yet.
    I was sceptical (I've heard things about Shiver and I know it's not really my kind of thing!) but I can't wait now 🙂

    Thank you!


  12. Your book review and all the various comments have me quite inspired. I'm putting this book on my list. I appreciate your work in preparing the review, thanks!


  13. Wow, sold. To be honest, I wasn't sure what it was about, but if you love it I know I will too, as we've got such similar taste. I'm grabbing a copy to use as a revision reward. I heard Maggie Stievfater speak about it earlier this year — she's a great speaker!


I adore comments, so thanks so much for taking the time. I'll try and return the favour 😀