Confession time. I read several reviews that called The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater a supernatural YA version of Misty of Chincoteague. Confession One: I have never read Misty of Chincoteague. Bit has to read it for school next year and I have been putting off reading it because, Confession Two: I don't want to. Why? Confession Three: I don't like horse stories. Never have. This is because, Confession Four: I don't really care for horses. (And don't get why so many people do.) I was very eager to read The Scorpio Races though. Apparently all it takes for me to be interested in a horse story is for the horses in question to be rapacious fey creatures who devour their riders when they fall off. What that says about me as a human being I'm not sure.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
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.
I can see why so many people have fallen in love with this book. Stiefvater's prose is beautiful and atmospheric. I really enjoyed her descriptions of the capaill uisce. She made them true creatures. They were very much beasts and their instinctive nature is to kill. It is only through firm careful control that they can be tamed by man. The novel is also paced well, covering the month before the race and the events leading up to it. There are a couple scenes that were a bit repetitive, but for the most part the plot kept me wanting to read all the way to the end, if only to discover how Stiefvater was going to resolve all the conflicts.
I also enjoyed, for the most part, the unfolding relationship between Puck and Sean. It was exactly the sort of relationship I like to read about. It was a slow moving one between people who shared a connection, but are also pitted against each other in a contest with high stakes. They approach what is between them with a realistic amount of caution mixed with intrigue.
Yet, I found myself not really caring much. Sean is so strong and silent that even when the story is from his point of view I felt like I didn't know him at all. What made him tick and why he loved these creatures so much despite all he had lost to them. Puck I just didn't understand. She made some inexplicably reckless decisions. I had a hard time swallowing her original motivation for taking such risks, and then wondered what she was thinking after all she witnessed. I found the "villains" in the story to be simple type characters. One in particular. I didn't love the book as much as I could have because the characterization didn't work for me. Maybe it all goes back to me not understanding the horse/human connection thing.