THE SCORPIO RACES
Paranormal Young Adult
Available October 18th
Received at BEA
Puck Connolly can't imagine living anywhere else but Thisby, watching as year after year people escape to the mainland to get away from the tragic deaths caused by the water horses that climb from the sea each year and attack anything in their way. Though both her parents fell prey to these beasts, she still has no desire to leave.
When her older brother Gabe informs her that he's abandoning both her and their younger brother Finn to go the mainland, Puck makes a desperate attempt to get him to stay by signing herself up for the Scorpio Races, a yearly event every November where those who have caught and trained some of the water horses race them in a bloody sprint for a substantial purse. Hoping the extra money from her win will sway Gabe's decision, Puck begins training on her regular island pony Dove.
Sean Kendrick has won the Scorpio Races four years in a row on his magnificent red mount Corr. Fascinated despite himself by the presence of Puck, not only the first woman to enter the race but also the first person to enter on anything other than a water horse, he begins to spend time with her and Dove. At first hoping to dissuade her from a race that will surely get her killed, Sean begins to admire Puck's determination, wanting to help them win even though losing himself will cost him what he wants most.
Quiet yet completely absorbing and intense, The Scorpio Races gradually draws us into a reality similar to ours but different in one shockingly fascinating way: the existence of water horses. Resembling regular horses in appearance aside from some more unusual colors like vibrant red, these creatures of the sea are predators to their core, attacking and killing humans or enchanting them with their magic and drowning them in their beloved sea. This story is not explosive or action-packed, progressing so slowly and evenly that at times we question our connection to the characters and plot, feeling as though we are traveling through a dense fog knowing we are surrounded by Puck and Sean and their horses, yet they slip through our fingers easily when we try to touch. It's not until we read further that we realize the swirling mist we thought we were desperately chasing has turned to solid shackles without our conscious knowledge, beautifully binding us to the outcome of the race as our investment becomes deep and moving and unforgettable.
Sean is one of the main reasons our attachment to this book takes us by surprise, his reserved quality and air of coolness and calm at first creating a wall between us since we can't seem to relate to such quietude when we're so used to noise. Once we continue with the story however, we develop the ability to read his stillness, understanding that he is neither detached nor unresponsive, but is rather telegraphing his emotions as loudly as if he were screaming, we just weren't listening correctly in the beginning. Every word spoken is laden with meaning given he speaks so few, an added weight placed on each syllable uttered that causes us to hold our breath while he's talking lest we miss even the tiniest piece of himself a small gesture or simple inflection might reveal. We learn to revel in his silence, knowing it's as ripe with feeling as if he had spoken aloud, and we find ourselves overwhelmed by his stunningly gorgeous simplicity.
In addition to the haunting and slowly-developed relationship between Puck and Sean, we also have the pleasure of experiencing their individual connections to their horses. Each animal is a reflection of the character who loves them–Corr's innate strength and desire to be free echoed in Sean just as Dove's determination and fear of the race shines through in Puck. Though they don't speak audibly, engaging us with words and conversations, their personalities are distinct nonetheless, bleeding through the pages and seeping into our hearts as surely as if they belonged to us personally. Our stomachs tie themselves in knots when we come to fully understand the stakes for both Puck and Dove and Sean and Corr in the race, and our eyes remain glued to the pages, wanting to stop reading before anything bad happens but unable to find any bliss in our ignorance due to the depth of our involvement.
Those looking for a page-turner will likely find themselves a touch bored with this tale, but those who love a story that shocks them with the the intensity of their emotional reaction will glory in the beautiful richness of a flavor that stems from something slowly simmered. Having experience with horses and being familiar with the joy a bond between horse and rider can bring, The Scorpio Races perhaps affected me more personally than it may some, ensuring its place on my shelf of favorites for some time to come.