Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Scorpio Races: Book Review

Listen to this:

Now read this:
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
Now look at this:

Now I shall begin. And remember, this is not really a review. It's the ghost of one.

This story was beautiful. I'm not exactly the biggest fan of Maggie Stiefvater after I read her Shiver series, but her new book The Raven Boys sounds good, and The Scorpio Races was a hundred times better than  any book from the Shiver trilogy. In my opinion, at least. There's a lot less magical and paranormal, and more character development and plot building. It's told from 3rd person POV, which isn't exactly my favorite, as I do prefer 1st person, simply because 3rd person, if not done correctly, leaves me feeling disconnected from the characters and unable to really "get into" the story. Some stories do 3rd person better than this - so well that it feels like I'm reading first person - put those are far to few. But then, this has a plus - it's dual POV. I. love. dual. point. of. view. I've read books in which there are more than 2 alternating POVs, and then it just reminds me of the film Vantage Point, except the film's much better, because in writing, it just gets messy. The double POV shows the story from the side of each of the main characters, letting you know more than either of the characters, an omniscient POV, I think that's what it's called.
Anyway the story follows Puck, who's real name is Kate, a matter which had me confused with the gender for the first few chapters - it's a girl. Puck's lost her mother and father to water horses - exactly what the name suggests, stronger and faster than regular horses, and difficult to control, meat eating beasts - and her older brother Gabe has decided to leave the island, Thisby, for mainland, leaving Puck and her younger brother, Finn, alone. On an impulse, she decided to enter the Scorpio Races, races held each November between water horses, though participate with her normal horse. She's the first girl to ever enter the Scorpio Races, and many don't want her there. She later learns that the house they live in is in debt, and they have six months before it's foreclosed. The only way for her to keep their house, and maybe even stop Gabe from leaving, is to win the race and prize money.
The second character is Sean, which I initially pronounced "seen", but after I listened a bit to the audio version (Youtube link at the top of this post), I realized it was pronounced "shaun", or "shawn". It's like Maggie Stiefvatar has a problem with names - in her Shiver series she uses the most unattractive boy name (in my opinion), Sam, then names the girl in this book a boy name, and spells the boy's name a weird way. Plus, I have no clue how to pronounce her last name. That sounds harsh, I guess, and so no offense to all the Sams out there, or all those of you with hard to pronounce last names (myself included), but sometimes my critical criticizing part peeks its head out. Sean's father used to ride a red water horse, named Corr, and in one unfortunate accident, was trampled to death by his horse. His mother followed soon after his father's death, and left an orphan, he went to work for the island's main horse-owner, a rich, fat, cunning, deceptive, ugly man, basically an onion. This onion has found Corr once again (after he escaped Sean's father) and taken him as his own. Corr means so much more to Sean than just a water horse. For him to be able to buy his father's horse off his boss, he needs the prize money of winning the Scorpio Races.
And that is the dilemma.
This book was impossibly slow - the climax is the Scorpio Races, and they happen (according to my kindle), in the last 7% of the book. 93% of the book is extremely slow rising action. The thing is, instead of being boring, it made the story all that better. It's more about the Island of Thisby and how it works, the complex relationships between the people, the wonderful descriptions that lead up to the race, the hints and foreshadowing that leave you on the edge of your seat, and the way that every word is so important, if you skip a line, you'll be trying to understand what happened for the remainder of the story. 
Loved it.