It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.
–Maggie Stiefvater - The Scorpio Races - c.2011
Near the village of Thisby on the island of Skarmouth lives Puck Connolly her two brothers. Her parents were killed a few years back, they went out on the boat fishing and the capaill uisce got them. And what, you may ask are the capaill usice, well, if you translate it you get water horses. And if you know you celtic mythology you might know of the the terrifying water horses that lure people to their deaths. Well, these share a name. And they are terrifying, but although those myths gave the author her inspiration they aren’t really all that similar. The capaill usice of The Scorpio Races look, at a glance, like horses, but they are carnivore’s, and they love their meat.
They live in the ocean, but every year, in November the storms drive them to the shore. Some of the men will venture out and try to catch the capaill and master them enough that they can be ridden in the annual Scorpio Races.
I’ll admit that when I first saw mention of this book I wasn’t too sure But I’ve read quite a few favourable mentions of it, and I stored the name away. And then, last month we did a book-buy at work. And among the stock we bought was a copy of The Scorpio Races so I thought, oh, I’ll read that, and nabbed it. A few days later I finished a book on the train and was flicking through my kindle when I spotted the title. I’d bought it myself. Doh! But I’m glad I had, because it meant I started reading it. And I loved it. Of course, I’m biased on account of horsies! okay, not real horses, but still close enough.
It starts slow, and develops gradually, but it is the better story for that. We really get to know the two main characters. Both are teenagers living without parents, both are fighting hard to survive and to get what they need. And there is no stupid love triangle, which I am so very thankful for, because that is such a cliché at this point. Puck, or Kate, is fighting to keep living in her family home. Her older brother wants to leave the island, she cannot imagine that. She loves the island, even with it “small-town” problems and rain and dreariness and the dangers the capaill uisce bring.
Sean trains the capaill usice, as well as normal race-horses. He has been involved in the Scorpio Races ever since he was child, he saw his father killed by one, but still he loves his red stallion Corr. Corr might attack and kill him, but Sean knows him, knows how he’ll react and how to manage him. But Corr is not his, he belongs to the stable owner and nothing Sean offers is enough to buy him.
But if he wins the Scorpio Race, then he just might have enough. But if he wins then Puck won’t, and then she will lose her home and her family. How can they both get what they want?
This is a wonderful story, with wonderful characters and so well written I may just have to try some more by the author. I’ve been avoiding them because the covers and blurb seem so clichéd young adult romance at the moment. But you know what they say about never judging a book by its cover…