The field of YA writing of late, particularly paranormal, has become saturated with romance. A lot of these are unrealistic, poorly written and some are downright frightening- note to authors, sexual harassment is not sexy, it’s wrong! Maggie Stiefvater’s latest effort, The Scorpio Races, went some way into restoring my faith in the genre.
While the Mercy Falls series at times was difficult with me to get on with due to my cynical nature and shaky faith in soulmates, I couldn’t deny that Stiefvater writes very well and her twisting of mythology was very engaging. The Scorpio Races was a fantastic read for me therefore as the tweaked-mythology was at the forefront and the romance, while present, felt secondary and subtle. It was plot-driven, character-focused and none of these elements suffered for the romance.
The Scorpio Races plays with the convention of water horses (I hadn’t really heard of them before this however I must admit) and Stiefvater creates a chilling community of Thisby where the tourist draw is a yearly race on the beach, with water horses…. that kind of are violent. There is a level of gore and violence in this book but with the creatures created, that is needed and its inclusion works to the novel’s advantage.
The romance between Puck and Sean is well-developed and it isn’t overbearing; far more at the forefront of the novel is the tension between both character’s need to win the race. This is where Stiefvater’s writing comes into its own as I felt so torn reading the novel between who I wanted to win; the fact there is one winner means someone will lose, and both are characters we care for by the end.
The best thing for me about this book though? The feminism, for once we have a strong, female character within a paranormal YA character and she’s kind of awesome. She is strong, intelligent and while her decision to race the races on a non-magical horse seems like a suicide mission, as a reader we are given Puck’s logic and it’s fairly sound.
The one thing I found hard to gauge was Thisby’s location; a tourist is described as American and I know Stiefvater used the Irish names for water horses but I didn’t get a true sense of a Celtic/Irish heritage or location. It had a Wicker Man sort of feel to that stereotypical small island, but I still am confused as to where the characters are and it made hearing their voices a little difficult at times for me.
I would definitely recommend this book to ChooseYA readers, I personally think it’s Stiefvater’s strongest novel to date.
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