This was an absolute enchanting gem of a book. I’ve been looking for actually good fantasy books for a while now – one of those books that would be memorable, exciting, heartwarming and squeal-worthy to join the Shelf of Beloved Favourites.
So I picked this book up because the blurb sounded interesting – it’s about horses, after all, that can’t go wrong.
Outside, the wind is a live, starving thing. The sky over Skarmouth is a dull brown, lit by the streetlights, but everywhere else is inky.
Little did I know, I was about to start reading something that reading a book that was deemed worthy of 5 stars within the first sitting. That’s less time than it’s taken for some books to even start making sense.
It’s the sort of book that I wanted to devour because of how good it was, and at the same time wanted to savour because what will I do if it finishes? Warning: It finished. I am heartbroken.
Due to this heartbrokenness and how PERFECT this book was, I’m not sure how I’ll be able to coherently write a review. But I’ll try.
♦ CHARACTERS ♦
All the characters were, to say the least, extremely well-written. They felt intense and real and it wasn’t hard at all to fall in love with this book. None of them felt flat, or pretentious. That’s commendable because it could have been so easy for Maggie Stiefvater to leave Gabe a cold and distant persona, but she didn’t. We start out hating him but by the end we are able to sympathize with him. And that’s just one example of how perfectly written this book was. It’s a standalone, but I grew attached to the characters as if they were a part of a long series!
Puck was brave and stubborn and determined and inspiring – not to mention, snarky. I loved the fact that when trying to take part in the race, being a girl was the last of her worries – but everyone else couldn’t get over it.
“Have you thought this through? People die, love. I’m all for women, but this isn’t a woman’s game.” For some reason, this irritates me more than anything else I’ve heard all day. It’s not even relevant.
Something else I appreciate: the world didn’t seem to just revolve around the two main characters. The rest of them had lives, and their own stories, and they weren’t just present so the main character could get so and so thing.
Also, the sibling relationships between Puck and Gabe and Finn (precious Finn!!) was also really good! For me, it was part of what made the book what it is (perfect, i mean).
♦ PLOT ♦
Perfectly paced, the book took its time to explore the characters and world. It conveyed the feel of training for the race, and then the race itself, right as if we were experiencing it for ourselves.
Some might complain that the plot moves too slowly – the actual race is short and only happens in the very end. That’s the thing though – The Scorpio Races wasn’t just about the race – it was about human attachment and motive, how they deal with loss. Apart from man-eating horses, it’s about finding where you belong. The struggles and worries of the characters felt extremely real and touching, despite the fantasy element. I think that’s part of the beauty of the book – how it mixes the magical in with the ordinary.
Did no one tell him that pain lives in this sand, dug in and watered with our blood?
♦ WORLD ♦
The book is set on a secluded island populated by people who seem normal enough – side by side with vicious water horses. There are cars but not phones or computers, and it’s difficult to place when exactly this is set. Maybe mid-20th century? The timelessness adds to the charm of the book though, so I think the vagueness is fine as it is.
Maggie Stiefvater’s writing is atmospheric and completely engulfing, not to mention beautiful. Seriously, whenever I got up from reading this book, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Any adjective I can try to use won’t be able to describe how perfect this book was in every sense. It felt surreal and comforting all at once.
♦ MILD UN-LIKES ♦
Um. Have you been present for this review? What do you mean, un-likes? Okay, let me spell it out: there’s is NOTHING (nothing) wrong with this and I strongly urge you go read it right now.
My thighs sting from the friction of the saddle. My arms ache from holding up two thousand pounds of horse. I have forgotten what it is like to be warm and what a full night’s sleep feels like, and what my name sounds like spoken instead of shouted across yards of sand.
I am so, so alive.