Monday, 14 November 2011

Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

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.

“It’s the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.”

How is that for an opening sentence – it gives you chills doesn’t it. And that feeling, of something magical unfurling in your hands, that grows the further into the book you get. This has tied with ‘The Night Circus’ as the best book I’ve read this year.

This review has taken me far too long to write, but it was simply that after finishing I wasn’t sure I could find the words to describe how beautifully brilliant this book was, and how much I had fallen in love with it in such a short space of time.

The book is beautiful, haunting and creeps over you with such elegant prose that it left me breathless. It has a timeless quality that is accentuated by Stiefvater’s vagueness on anything that would anchor it, and it is partly that that lends the book its otherworldly atmosphere.

The romance is beautifully played out – something born slowly and out of familiarity, out of friendship and a shared interest, and it’s so beautifully realistic that my heart ached for them to be together.

Sean reaches out between us and takes my wrist. He presses his thumb on my pulse. My heartbeat trips and surges against his skin. I’m pinned by his touch, a sort of fearful magic.
We stand and stand, and I wait for my pulse against his finger to slow, but it doesn’t.

Stiefvater has taken an old legend of the water horses and put an entirely fresh spin on it, the water horses are at once both utterly terrifying and incredibly beautiful, and the island of Thisby is an incredible compliment to the legend. Stiefvater plays on all the senses, drawing them into the book until you can feel the wind and the salt spray, taste the November cakes, and smell the sea and sweat and blood of the races. Everything is heightened. Everything is beautifully expressed, even if those involved cannot speak the words, and the island life creeps inside you until you wish you could stay there forever.

The Scorpio drums pound a ragged heartbeat as I wind my way through the crowds that fill the streets of Skarmouth. The cold air smarts as I breathe is in; the wind carries all sorts of foreign scents. Food that’s only made during the race season. Perfume only women from the mainland wear. How pitch, burning rubbish, beer spilled on the stones. This Skarmouth is raw and hungry, striving and unknowable. Everything the races make me feel on the inside is bleeding up through the seams in the street tonight.

I think that’s a mercy of this island, actually, that it won’t give us our terrible memories for long, but let us keep the good ones for as long as we want them.

The reason I picked this book up in the first place was due entirely to Angie’s review – if I haven’t convinced you how beautiful this book is, go over and read her review. She’ll have you going on Amazon by the end…

1 comment:

  1. It was a really good book, I couldn't put it down. It had love sacrifice adventure and will keep you as it has me on the edge of your seat.
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