The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater
With an incredible atmospheric setting and looming dread that settles throughout the book, The Scorpio Races is a fun, suspenseful read. Main characters Puck and Sean are easy to root for, and you so want their story to work out, despite all the odds.
Thisby is an island (I think set off of Great Britain somewhere) where mythical monstrous water horses emerge from the sea to try to eat horses, pets, people, whatever their teeth should land on. So of course there is a culture of capturing and racing these monsters, culminating in the November 1 races, which are the backbone for the entire economy of this tiny island.
It seems as though many children on the island are orphans, as all the parents end up eaten by monsters. Puck curses how many people leave the island year after year, although it seems right logical to me. Puck is attached to the island in a way she can't understand, even though both her parents were eaten. In a desperate attempt to save her house from being repossessed and to keep her family together, she enters into the races, the first woman to have ever done so. Sean Kendrick is known as a man with one foot on land, the other in the sea, and is essentially the horse monster whisperer. (Okay, the horse monsters are actually called capall uisce (CAPple ISHka), but it's a pain to both spell and say). He is a champion and is riding for his freedom and that which he loves as well. As both Sean and Puck are drawn ever closer to the inevitable climax of the races, they find themselves drawn to each other as well.
There are many things that made this book so enjoyable to me. I loved the island of Thisby, with its close villager life and a cast of kooky characters to support Puck and Sean (or be their mortal enemies). I'm not sure what it is about books set in small seaside villages, but I love them all. Does anyone else love them as much as I do? I am a complete sucker for them, and should clearly move to the sea despite having lived every single one of my years completely landlocked. In this way, Stiefvater created such an atmospheric place, threaded through with the unease and wildness all the native Thisby people feel when it comes to the horses.
I adored this atmosphere, set in October, as winter starts to cut through the wind and things get chilly. I could almost imagine taking out my warm sweaters from their seasonal storage and make myself some warm spice cakes like the ones they go on about in the book. I think my one regret about the book is that I read it in cheerful springtime - this book deserved an atmosphere as moody as it. If you haven't read The Scorpio Races yet, do so in October, as it was made for that time (also, my favourite time of year!)
Actually, I do have one other regret. Despite the fact that Puck and Sean are drawn to each other like long-lost soulmates, all we get in the end are a couple of kisses. Wherefore art all the sex gone in young adult books? It's natural, yes? However, I have realized that half of my complaints about books is that there isn't nearly enough sex in them, so maybe this is just my problem? Also, both Puck and Sean are people of very little words. Most of their exchanges happen through glances and moody stares. It totally works in the book, but I'm wondering what their long-term life might look like together? Surely somebody needs to speak some of the time?
All in all, I really enjoyed this book. I know that Maggie Stiefvater is a rockstar in the ya literature community, so I think I'll be reading more from her soon.