It’s rare that a book sucks me into its world and its characters and it’s rare that an author can maintain my interest for an entire novel and leave me a reading “high” at the end. If you haven’t had a reading “high” it’s that feeling that the ending is so good yet not so perfect that it’s fake. Instead, it does exactly what the author should do and leaves the reader wanting more yet satisfied with what they have. Like a good dessert.
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater does exactly that. The story is about an island named Thisby that is known around the world for having the Scorpio Races. The island is somewhat fictional but from the way they refer to it and some of the language I’m guessing it’s supposed to be an island off the British coast. Like the Ilse of Manx, for example.
What’s unique about the island is that this is the only place in the world where the Capaill Uisce come ashore in the fall. What are Capaill Uisce, you ask? Well for those of you that don’t speak Irish or Scots, they are also known as Kelpies or Fairy horses. They are wild yet can be tamed. They are carnivorous, larger than land horses, and live in the sea. They can live on land, but the sea is always calling to them. During the fall, Thisby natives capture a Capall Uisce and attempt to tame it enough to run a race against other Capaill Uisce. Or in the case of this book, a girl and her island horse (really a tall pony).
Ok, the premise might seem a little campy in writing, but honestly, the way Stiefvater handles it, you’d think this is an actual occurrence. I think a big part of this is the characters. The story is told from the two protagonists, Sean Kendrick and Kate “Puck” Connolly. I don’t usually like alternating-point-of-view narration, but with this story, the two points-of-view help broaden the scope of the plot and make the narrators too emo.
By the end of the book I wanted to move to Thisby and befriend Sean and Kate. Or at least have tea with them. Maybe because this book takes place in November and I read it in November, but Stiefvater really makes you taste the salt in the air and the sea breeze on your skin. To me, as a reader and a teacher, I give Stiefvater a lot of credit for taking a Celtic myth and modernizing while still able to transport us to Thisby with her craft and make us friends with a character. All of the above are the elements of what I consider a good book. Here’s hoping there might be a sequel in the works.