The Scorpio Races

Maggie Stiefvater
The Scorpio Races Cover

The Scorpio Races

Ann Walker

As you've probably noticed, I'm not very good at giving summaries of the books I read – that's what the Goodreads link is for. So my reviews are mostly about how the story engaged me intellectually and/or emotionally. I feel like I've been talking about the book for ages now, but I can't even begin to articulate how much I loved it. Of course a very big part of that was the narration, which was absolutely superb. When I've listened to audiobooks before, I've been familiar with the story, so my prior experience was more like enjoying a performance, rather than actually engaging with the story. For The Scorpio Races, I had no idea beyond the bare bones – "Water-horses race, people die" – and so every nuance, every emotion was derived from what I was hearing.

It's a story full of almost unbearable tension – the tension of the upcoming Scorpio Race, where each day leading up the race, horses and riders die, and others will most certainly die during the race itself; the tension of the main characters, Sean and Kate, and the desperation of their hardscrabble lives; the relationship between Sean and Corr, the deadly water-horse he rides; the almost unbearable tension of Sean and Kate's romance-that-is -not-a-romance. I mentioned last week that I felt it was dragging, but then I realized that that was actually an element of the slow-build towards the climax, the race itself and its aftermath. I got to the point where I actually devoted three hours to finish listening to the book – I simply could not bear to wait any longer.

It's not a retelling of Celtic mythology, though its origins are there. It's a story of elementals – fiery Kate, Sean (and Corr) as Water, Kate's fae-like younger brother Finn as Air, and the island setting, Thisby, as Earth. There's also a strong sense of Sean and Kate as deities, fated to meet and mate. Their scenes together (each told in first-person) bear all the confusion of two young people who are not quite socially adept, but instinctively understand the depths of each other's hearts.

I'm particularly glad, too, that this story was self-contained, and not part of a trilogy – I don't know that I could have borne to wait for a resolution! Though I would dearly love, and look forward to, more of Sean and Kate, Corr and Finn and Thisby.

To be honest, I don't know if simply reading the book would have had the same impact. I checked it out from my library as a downloadable audiobook. (Oh brave new world! To have such technology in it!) and knew well before I finished it that I wanted it, but the Audible price for non-members was daunting. Fortunately, it was available for the Kindle at a very reasonable price, with the Whisper-Sync available. I knew of Whisper-sync, but hadn't ever tried it. How it works is, after you buy the Kindle edition, the Audible edition is available at a greatly reduced price. So I have both a printed (which will be invaluable come Yuletide) and the audio edition. If this technology is available to you, I highly recommend it!