The Scorpio Races
On the island of Thisby, you avoid the beaches for your own safety. Except, of course, when it's time for the Scorpio Races, where inhabitants race the deadly water horses in a frequently fatal competition. Puck has never even seen the Scorpio Races, but when her brother informs his siblings that he's going to the mainland for good, she makes a sudden decision to race this year. Sean, the rider to beat in the races, has always been better with the water horses than anyone else on the island, but he's tired of working for Malvern and wants to own his horse for himself.
At the launch party for The Scorpio Races, Maggie described, in ten steps, how to write a Maggie Stiefvater novel. I don't remember all of them, but some of the key steps included "kill someone in the first chapter," "make it so your characters really need to do what they sort of generally wanted to before," and "make it impossible for everyone to get what they want." The Scorpio Races followed this formula to a tee, which is only natural considering it is in fact a Maggie Stiefvater novel.
It's a good model, too. I've loved every Maggie Stiefvater novel I've read so far (which is all of them except Ballad, and I should get that one from the library soon). The Scorpio Races was a brilliant story about a rather obscure (and therefore not overdone) myth. I loved the unique atmosphere of Thisby and the way the capaill uisce (water horses) were feared and yet integral to the life of the island.
Puck and Sean were great protagonists. I was pleased that Puck, rather than being brash and confident all the time, actually had a lot of doubts about her course while still maintaining a facade of bravado. Sean was quietly fascinating, especially his rapport with the capaill uisce. I really enjoyed the supporting cast as well, particularly the sisters in the shop and Puck's younger brother Finn, whom I would have liked to see even more of.
The only problem I had with this book wasn't really fair at all, but I spent much of the read comparing it with Guy Gavriel Kay's The Sarantine Mosaic, which also involves racing. They're really rather different genres entirely, but are written the same lyrical style and laced with similar themes. But considered on its own merits, The Scorpio Races was a marvelous read that I'm sure I will come back to many times.
Plot: 4 cupcakes
Characters: 4 cupcakes
Style: 5 cupcakes
Overall: 4 cupcakes
If you liked The Scorpio Races, try:
Other books by Maggie Stiefvater
The Sarantine Mosaic by Guy Gavriel Kay
The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley