The Scorpio Races

Maggie Stiefvater
The Scorpio Races Cover

The Scorpio Races


Every year, at the start of the zodiacal sign of Scorpio, out of the wild seas off the rugged windswept island of Thisby come magical horses, fey horses, huge, violent, murderous - beautiful. They eat only raw flesh, and dont care whether it is animal or human. The bravest of the Islanders battle to subdue these horses, using iron to control them, for all fey creatures are powerless against cold iron. If you arent killed or maimed in the struggle, you may control the horse enough to enter it for the races in November, where the most prestigious race carries a huge winner's purse. The water horses always long to return to the sea, and if prevented, in their rage will savage any other horse or rider in range. Rich horse people come from all over the world for the bloody spectacle, and the villagers have to make as much money as possible to scrape through the rest of the year. There is little work on the island, and many have left for other places, especially those who hate the whole tragedy of violent deaths each year.

You could probably call 19 year old Sean Kendrick a horse whisperer, who is worth his weight in gold to his boss Benjamin Malvern, a rich, ruthless, manipulative breeding stable owner. Sean has won the race 4 out of the last 6 times on the water horse Corr, with whom he has formed a remarkable bond, though Sean would never trust Corr. Sean has saved his 10% share of the winnings, and at last if Corr wins again Malvern will sell Corr to Sean, who hopes to set up his own modest breeding stable. Quiet, reserved Sean, whose mother left the island aafter his father was killed by a water horse is self-disciplined and wonderful with horses of all kinds, and is hated with a jealous passion by Mutt, the boss's son, who recognizes Sean is everything he is not. He makes life very hard for Sean.

Meaanwhile Kate "Puck" Connolly and her two brothers are struggling to survive. Their parents were killed by wild water horses as they were fishing, and oldest brother Gabriel has attempted to work to keep their house, whose mortgaage is owned by MalvernHe detests the island and the horses and intends to leave for the mainland. The house will be forfeited, Kate and her younger brother will have to live in poor conditions in the village, and she will have to give up her beloved horse Dove, which will break her heart. Desperately she decides to enter the race though the first girl ever, and riding a non- magical horse. Perhaps if she wins her brother will stay, her winnings will pay for the house, and she can keep Dove.

A sweet, understated romance develops between lonely outsider Sean, and funny, passionate Kate, both of them loving the island, their horses and each other. But there will only be one winner. . . .

The race itself takes up only about a dozen pages, the main thrust of the book is the culture of the island, since time immemorial linked to the sea and the magic horse. Indeed, hidden in a cave is an ancient cave painting of water horse from the time of worshiping a Horse Goddess. Riding the horses has always been a bloody rite of passage.

There are so many good things about this book. Stiefvater has produced a wonderful study of this little community on a wild island, the land and sea so vividly described you can feel the wind whipping through your hair, and salt on your lips. There are lots of quirky interesting characters, plenty of action, and a tense denouement. And of course, the water horses, terrifying but fascinatinghorses. I found this book much better than the authors werewolf saga, an intense fast paced fun read.