The Children's Book Compass

Scorpio Races

Posted on: January 3, 2012

Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.  409 pages.  Scholastic.  Ages 11-16.  Fantasy.

Stiefvater imagines an island world where dangerous horses, capaill uisce, emerge from the sea to be tamed (somewhat) and run on race day in November.  The opening line hooks the reader, “It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.”  Only the capaill uisce are raced on the beach against the cliffs in November.  Two teens alternately tell their stories of preparing for the race.  The two stories seamlessly merge by the end of the book.  Sean at age ten saw his father killed in the race, viciously pulled from his saddle by a capaill uisce and trampled to death.  Later, Sean becomes a gifted trainer of the capaill uisce.  But he works for the richest man on the island and although he has won the race four times, he hopes to win again to gain the horse he loves.  Puck’s desperate goal is win the race so she can use the award money to save her family farm for herself and her brothers.  Only, her problem is that no girl or woman has ever ridden in the race and, instead of riding one of the magic water horses, she wants to ride her own land pony.  The novel is a page turner as it races toward a resolution.  Beware don’t start it late at night.  Romance, adventure and a cast of intriguing characters are the story elements that zip the story along.  The island setting takes an active role in the plot.  The author was inspired by several myths about dangerous fairy horses from the sea that have been told in the British Isles.

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