Yet again Maggie Stiefvater has taken a subject I know nothing about and made me care too much about it. Thanks Maggie.
“Every year, the Scorpio Races are run on the beaches of Skarmouth. Every year, the sea washes blood from the sand. To race the savage water horses can mean death, but the danger is irresistible. When Puck enters the races to save her family, she is drawn to the mysterious Sean, the only person on the island capable of taming the beasts. Even if they stay together, can they stay alive?”
Horses. I am not a horsey person. I have never ridden a horse, nor have I particularly had the inclination. I sometimes think it would be worth learning, so I can add another skill to my CV,
Interviewer: “Why do you want this office job?”
Me: “Well I can ride a horse, so I’m clearly multi-talented, right?”
You see? Totally a worthy skill to have. Anyway the point is that this book, about murderous, carnivorous, man-eating sea horses (not to be confused with cute, little, curly tailed seahorses) made me care more about the fate of the horses in the race than the people in the race and it’s entirely because there is so much love for these creatures weaved into the pages of this book. It’s obvious Stiefvater is a horsey person. It’s almost as if the horses on this strange little island are more of a religion than the Catholicism some of the residents display, and that was a wonderful idea to play around with. They believe in both, but the horses are there, coming up from the ocean every October, a tangible anchor for people to adhere to. Of course they worship them.
The Irish aspect of the story was a surprise, if only because I knew nothing about it before I read it and expected Americanisms from an American author. And this is why they tell you to never assume things. Maybe I should have taken the hint from the spelling of ‘Sean’. The ‘Cappaill Uisce’ are an Irish legend, a variation of the Celtic Water Horse legend (some claim The Loch Ness Monster is a such a beast) and the author has done a wonderful job of incorporating Ireland and making the setting undeniably Irish, without resorting to stereotypes. My review notes honestly read “oh, we’re in Ireland!” it’s actually the first note, so you know it’s done well.
As has been mentioned before, I take issue with blurbs that focus on entirely the wrong part of the story. While this is no exception I’m not going to rant about it (shock, right?) but instead I’ll say this: Why isn’t there more of a focus on Puck being a pioneering woman in this blurb? She is the first woman to ever enter the Scorpio Races and the men of the island aren’t best pleased, as you can imagine. There is plenty of action and drama surrounding this fact and her motivations for doing it never change, despite the history she is making. There is a very strong empowerment theme here and it’s done extremely well. Puck is the Emmeline Pankhurst of Thisby. Except less militant. And less political. In fact she is nothing like Emmeline Pankhurst but it would have made a great blurb point.
A thrilling read for horsey and non horsey people alike that will definitely leave you wanting to know more: Four Stars.