Book Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio Races cover

The Scorpio Races
By Maggies Stiefvater
GoodreadsAmazon | Audible
Series: no
Release date: October 18th, 2011
Rating: OMG, so good
Times read: 3
Recommended by: A student in my book club

Have I mentioned yet that I am a fan of Maggie Stiefvater’s writing? (Spoiler: yes, here, here, here, and here) “Cause I really do. The more of her writing I read the more that I love it. 

The Scorpio Races is an examination of the water horse myth.  Are you aware of water horses?  I may have vaguely heard about them at some point but I had never given them much thought before now.  They are creepy as hell.  Really. You could not pay me enough to get near one.  Horses are big and pretty scary on their own so I found that I needed very little prompting to find the capaill uisce terrifying.

Puck Connolly is (so far) my favorite of Stiefvater’s heroines.  She has spirit nd a sense of humor. In my head this takes place on an island off the coast of Ireland in, like, the 1920’s.  Evidence: general atmosphere, English speaking but not American, I associate horse racing with Ireland, a reporter references the woman’s suffrage movement, the cars are super unreliable, and also just ‘cause. Am I basing this head cannon on flimsy evidence or am I making sense?

Sean Kendrick has made the water horses (one in particular) and the stables his family. I love how self-contained he is. You know how most people have to seek out others in order to be themselves.  Sean is complete unto himself and I love that about him.  There is an inner stillness and certainty to his character that makes him very engaging even when he isn’t doing much.

All the supporting characters are so well realized.  All of them feel like real people.  It seems as if there should be a coffee table book with a photos essay about the people of Thisby including each of these characters. In particular, I found Pucks younger brother Finn to be charming.   I loved that while we are following Puck and Sean and there are the center of the book they are not the center of the supporting characters existence.

The island of Thisby should also be mentioned.  There was such a sense of place in this novel. I swear I could see the cliffs and smell the sea.  I think that the island concept was brilliant in itself.  If the islanders weren’t all trapped in some sense much of the tension of the book would have been lost.  Many of the characters see the island as a cage.  Something to escape. Both Puck and Sean see it differently.  To them the island is not just home it is an inner calling.  Almost as if the island itself is part of their consciousness.  A part of their thinking, A part of their definition of self. 

So much of this book was about expectations.  What you expect of others, what others expect from you, and most importantly what you expect from yourself.  And all of these expectations (know or hidden) are related to Scorpio Race.  It is interesting that the Scorpio Races cause such turmoil on the island and yet I never once questioned it’s existence.  Normally I would not be able to stop myself from thinking that they should stop capturing the scary monster horses and having a race where people die.

I did not find this to be a slow story but I can understand it others do.  When I think back on it very little actually happens.  There is a huge amount of character development and I had all the feels but if I was to break down the plot it would look pretty flat.  I enjoy that type of writing.  If it bugs you then Maggie Stiefvater might not be the writer for you. If you are looking for atmosphere and characters that you feel as if you know then you will find this book a treat.

From Goodreads:
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen. 

Top Ten Books the Kids in My Book Club Would Not Shut Up About

Top Ten Tuesday is a brilliant meme created by  The Broke and the Bookish.

Top Ten Tuesday is a brilliant meme created by The Broke and the Bookish.

Ah, Middle Schoolers.  I run a weekly book club for middle schoolers.  They come to me instead of going to lunch.  The commitment is strong with these kids.  I have never had as much fun in my life as watching 12 year old swoon over books.  You know how people are constantly moaning about the state of children and the future.  Let me tell you that we are in good hands my friends.  

Because I teach in an international school in China almost all of my students are bilingual and many are trilingual or more.  They have come up with the idea of reading the same book in two different languages and then comparing the reading experiences.  I cannot even explain how much I love this idea.  #TheseKidsAreAmazing

One thing that I find particularly interesting is the amount of older books that the kids read.  Sometimes the covers are fresh and they don't even know.  This week alone I have seen someone reading Tigereyes,  We were talking about realistic fiction the other day and all of them told me that they are sick to death of MG books about bullying.  

But they do get fixated.  There were more than a few books that got brought up (by the same kids mind you) over and over and over again.  Seriously, it was like Groundhog day.  Here are the books that they wouldn't shut up about. 

Every Soul a Star
by Wendy Mass

I finally had to read it to see if it lived up to the book club hype.  It pretty much did.  It is a story about an eclipse and three middle school children whose lives are changing.  Adorable and uplifting. See my full review here.


The Maze Runner
James Dashner

This book was so popular with the students that the Design teacher made a whole unit about it.  Basically, all the kids are making digital 3D mazes.  That they will be able to  use VR goggles to navigate.  I know. I want to make one too.  


Divergent Series
by Veronica Roth

It is interesting that this is the series that caught their interest.  They aren't anti Hunger Hunger Games by any means but this is the series that they want to talk about.  I actually like the writing in this series much more.


Harry Potter Series
by J.K Rowling

Harry is in no danger of being abandoned any time soon.  They once spent an entire hour sorting themselves into houses. Of course it made this list.  At least one of the Harry Potter books is an answer to any Top Ten Tuesday.  By the way has anyone read the illustrated versions?  I have the first one and it was gorgeous.  Almost like getting to read the book for the first time again.

The Scorpio Races
by Maggie Stiefvater

I have to approve this addition to the list as I am a fan of all things Maggie Stiefvater.  I am rereading it at the moment because it was such a perfect Halloween book.  Atmospheric and with incredibly creepy horses.  I love this author with all of my heart.


The Book Thief
By Markus Zusak

This book gets brought up and all the kids chime in with variations of, "Yes". So do I.  This book is amazing.  Death is the narrator and it is set in Germany during WWII.  Some of the phrases in the book are almost poetry. Just Beautiful.  Just be prepared to cry all the tears.


By Morris Gleitzman

I feel as if the main characters total denial of what is happening to him even as his life before more and more dangerous is a valid response to being swept up in the Holocaust.  



I, Funny
By James Patterson

Middle School boys.  What else can I say?  I could do with not hearing about this book for a week.


Stay Where you are and then Leave
By John Boyne

This books get extra points for the title.  I love it.  This is by the same author as The Boy with the Striped Pajamas.  This book is about WWI and a boy being left behind by his father.  It wasn't terrible but wasn't my favorite book either.

by Svetlana Chmakova 

A Graphic novel about the art of getting through middle school and figuring out how to fit in.  This is also a story about a girl who is new to school which is something that these international school kids know all about.  Much identification with the characters.


So there is my list for all of you who want your books #MiddleSchoolerApproved.  What do you mean that that isn't something that is in demand? *sigh

What kinds of books do you remember reading in middle school?

Top Ten Books for Halloween

Anna Dressed in Blood
by Kendare Blake

Goodreads |  Amazon

Cas kills the dead.  Anna is dead.  And pissed about it.  Oh, star crossed lovers how I love you.


The Girl With All the Gifts
by M.R. Carey

Goodreads |  Amazon

It is almost impossible to share anything about this book without spoiling it.  Let me just say, "Super creepy children." and leave it at that.

Through the Woods
by Emily Carroll

Goodreads |  Amazon

You might think that this is an adorable fairy tale inspired graphic novel.  You would be wrong and then spend days getting over the heebie jeebies that this book caused. *shudder


The Darkest Part of the Forest
by Holly Black

Goodreads |  Amazon

Kind of a mix between every fairy tale ever and kinda not.  Halfway through the book you are hit with the creepiness. There is a brother and sister, a horned boy, and a glass coffin in the woods.

by Maggie Stiefvater

Goodreads |  Amazon

Maggie Stiefvater can do no wrong.  This is by far my favorite werewolf story ever.  I am still not completely sold on her heroines but the writing is so good that I am willing to overlook them every time.  And Sam is a delicious cinnamon roll who should be protected at all costs. (My review of Shiver is here)

A Monster Calls
by Patrick Ness

Goodreads | Amazon

This book will cause sobbing.  Lots of it.  Not that I am speaking from personal experience.  Not at all.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
by J.K Rowling

Goodreads |  Amazon

I guess you could include all the Harry Potter books in this list but this is the one that most focuses on Halloween and ghosts.  The deathday party food  alone is pretty scary.


How to Hang a Witch
by Adriana Mather

Goodreads |  Amazon

Because the Salem witch trials weren't terrible enough let's add high school. *runs away screaming.

Also?  This book is written by a descendent of Cotton Mather.

A History of Glitter and Blood
by Hannah Moskowitz

Goodreads |  Amazon

This one I am including for the sheer WTFery.  I can't decribe it except to say that it is possible that it will cause  seizures and you should not read it if you are planning on operating heavy machinery.


World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
by Max Brooks

Goodreads | Amazon

So, what happened when the Zombie apocalypse came?  Well, the world reacts in true to form manner.  

What really scares you in books?  I am super susceptible to drawn out tension.

Top Ten Tuesday is a brilliant meme created by The Broke and the Bookish.