My rating: 5 of 5 stars
WARNING!!!! There are spoilers bellow! If you don’t want to be spoiled about the plot points in this book back away slowly. I don’t mind.
The Scorpio Races absolutely stole my heart and soul.
It starts as a book about a girl, Puck, and her family and what she would do to keep her brothers together, the book then quietly evolves into the love of home, the love of horses, and falling in love.
For Sean it is about remembering what it is like being brave and risking everything for the horse that should be his.
This book has a quiet and brash charm to it much the same way that the small island of Thisby with its rocky shores and crashing waves and deadly sea horses is both terrifying and deeply beautifully haunting.
The writing in this book is masterful, and poetic. You could feel the island under your feet, the sea at your side, the November cakes in your hands. One of the things I really loved, was the way that Puck is realized. It is a series of her reactions now and the commentary on what her mom and dad used to say about her, kind of in an odd flashback way. Her parents passed away a year ago, death at sea by sea horses. Don’t let the words sea horses fool you into thinking of those odd little creatures with the curled tails. What is in this book are actually horses who live in the sea, but are vicious carnivores, that only come to land in the fall. The inhabitants of the island try to tame these horses for the Scorpio Races every November, but with the magic of the sea in the horses veins it is more than a challenge, even to the most experienced, things still go wrong.
It’s a small story, with big characters entrenched in each of the pages. The way that George Holly is butting in and giving Sean advice. The way that Daury Maud and the sisters butt in with Puck.I like the layering in of the people from the island, how even though the story isn’t necessarily about them they still feel very real, fully realized version of themselves, not just paper cut outs holding a place amongst the pages.
There is a slow building romance between Puck and Sean. This relationship has much to do with the bravery of what she is doing, being the first girl to ride in the races, and that his respect for her. Sean’s growing feelings for Puck also center around how she handles herself around his horse, Cor. There is a very deep bond between Sean and Cor, and while Cor may not be owned by Sean, Cor is still Sean’s horse in the way that it matters most, in their souls they belong to each other.
The romance between Sean and Puck is a slow organic thing, that starts from curiosity, and grows into mutual respect. There are moments that are changing points in the story for them, the axis tilting. When Sean says she should ride in the races, this opens the door to them starting to talk to each other. On the beach when Sean turns to Puck to hold Cor after Cor has killed a man, and she takes the reins and doesn’t flinch. When she goes to return his jacket and he challenges her to stand in the stall with Cor, leading into the double ride on Cor with Sean and Puck, how he needed for her to love his horse before he would let her into this heart. How after that ride they start training together. When he shows up for super, and they are prepping in the kitchen and talking strategy and he declares himself to her. That last moment had me thumping my feet in delight, but also with that lump in the back of my throat. Note that at this time they haven’t kissed. It has been an attraction between them, but a lot of respect too. I like this slow build. Even when they do kiss, when they are clearly a thing, it isn’t about describing the kiss in detail and how it feels, it’s about how this levels up what they are to each other.
And while we don’t get to see them riding happily off into the sunset, we get different peoples versions of what they think the future will be peppered into the advice given to the characters. I like that it is up to us to put the pieces together to see that Sean and Puck will find a way to make this work. This story is about the turning point in their lives. Puck is fierce and wild, and Sean has that wildness in him, but also a deep calm. I can see them fighting into their old age, and yet I see them lasting too. It won’t be smooth, it will rocky just like their island, but it will be there’s.
Now back to the horses, and the relationship between Cor and Sean. The end of the book, when the races take place Sean is nocked off his horse in a rather large plot twist kind of way. Other water horses would have eaten him or ridden off into the sea for him to be trampled. But not Sean’s Cor. He stays beside Sean, protecting him so he is not trampled. Cor with his broken leg. He is a blood thirsty horse, a water horse, but for Sean he is more than that, he is loyal.
At the end Sean tries to set Cor free, and Cor won’t go, even though he has a broken leg. Even though the water would be the best place for him, Cor stays with Sean. The bright side is we know that their is hope for Cor mending, as Sean’s new friend Holly says he has people who could fix him. They are over in California, which is very far from here, but its that hope that we are left with. We don’t quite know that it is happily ever after, but as the reader we can definitely build that picture for ourselves.
I felt so incredibly moved by this book. I stayed up till the wee hours of the morning to finish it. I haven’t been this connected to a book in a long time and I could already feel the literary hang over starting to take place the moment I shut the book. This is the kind of book that you reread and reread and reread, not because you want to figure out how the author wove everything together so seamlessly, but because you want to be sucked back into that world. My heart sings for the ocean and the raw cliffs of it, and this book spoke to that part of my soul. This book will layer itself into your heart.