Book Review : The Scorpio Races
Speaking very broadly, I would say that there are two types of horse stories that young people love. First is the kind where a girl or boy becomes friends with a horse and wants to own it, or already has a horse and might lose it. My girl friends in school loved this type of story, and they would get all dreamy-eyed over the thought of owning their own horse. Me? I was always a bit afraid of horses close-up—they are so big! And their teeth! (“The better to eat you with, my dear,” my mind would whisper.)
The other kind of tale involves a horse race. Oh, the visions these stories would inspire! The flying mud (the track was ALWAYS muddy), the thundering hooves, the straining muscles, and the cheering crowd—I could see it and hear it and my own heart would pound. My Grandma Meyer and my great-aunt Jen would drop everything and shush everybody when the horses were racing on TV, and I must take after them, because the horse racing books are definitely my favorite.
In Scorpio Races, Maggie Stiefvater does an excellent job combining both types of stories.
Every autumn, the water horses come ashore on the island of Thisby. Some of the islanders catch these wild creatures, train them, and race them on the beach on the first of November. Nineteen-year-old Sean works in the stables for Benjamin Malvern, training Malvern’s horses—both the ordinary ones and the water horses. He has a rapport with the horses—a sensitivity to their skittishness—that no one else shares. And he has a special love for Corr, the best of the Malvern stables, the water horse that Sean has more than once ridden to victory in the races. But Corr belongs to Malvern, and though Sean has tried more than once to buy the horse, Malvern has refused. This year, though, Malvern has promised to sell Corr to him…IF Sean wins the race again.
Then there’s Kate Connolly—”Puck” to her family and friends. She and her brothers are barely making do on the island after their parents were killed in the waters surrounding Thisby. Their landlord—Malvern—has threatened to kick them out, and no other available option would allow Puck to keep her beloved pony, Dove. Her only hope is to enter Dove into the race—and win. But what hope is there that the two of them will beat out the stronger and faster horses?
When Puck asks Sean to help her train for the race, he first scoffs at the idea that little Dove has a chance. But he agrees to help, and the more time that they spend together…well, you can guess. However, the hopes and dreams of both are riding on this race, and only one of them can win.
But the most important thing isn’t winning the race, it’s surviving. Nine years earlier, Sean’s father died in the races. These water horses are wild and dangerous and—oh yes, I forgot to mention—they are also carnivorous.