Let me just start by saying that after the experience of listening to Maggie Stiefvater’s Scorpio Races, I will pretty much listen to anything Steve West (voice of one of the two narrators, Sean Kendrick) says, even if he’s talking about shrimp in a Taco Bell commercial (and he does…check out his commercial reel). That is not to say that Fiona Hardingham, voice of Puck, doesn’t do a phenomenal job as well. I just don’t have a wild crush on her voice as I do Steve West’s. I am new to audio books, but this one was recommended by my colleague and fellow blogger, Gary, as it is a 2012 Odyssey Award Honor for Excellence in Audiobook Production (as it is a Michael Printz honor for 2012 as well), and as usual, Gary did not steer me wrong.
Audiobook or not, Maggie Stiefvater’s storytelling is just beautiful. This is the first book of her’s that I’ve read, and I can guarantee you I will be back for more.
Stiefvater transports readers to the fictional island of Thisby, which, judging from the narrators’ accents, sounds to be in the middle of nowhere UK. This tiny island thrives on one thing, on one event that takes place one day a year, The Scorpio Races. The Scorpio Races are an annual horse race. Sounds common enough, but the horses that race are from from it. They are the cappail uisce (pronounced kapel ishka…thank you audio book), water horses, and those who ride them either finish the race or die. According to Stiefvater, the legend is real:
It’s a tiny corner of Scottish and Irish and Manx mythology: swift and beautiful
horses that jump out of the ocean and attack people or cattle. The legend was more
complicated than that, though — the horses had their own kind of magic. Some of
them turned into young men and attempted to lure women into the ocean with them.
Some of them appeared as cute little ponies and tried to lure children onto their back.
My particular favorite part of this legend was the line that said that as more children
climbed onto the pony, its back would lengthen to accommodate them. Later, the
victims’ lungs and livers would wash up on the shore. (http://maggiestiefvater.com/the-scorpio-races/)
So cool, right? Well, Thisby’s water horses are not shape shifters, but they are deadly to those who are too quick to trust or believe they can tame what comes from the Scorpio Sea.
Stiefvater’s story is told from alternating points of view, first that of Sean Kendrick (one of my favorite YA male protagonists to date), a nineteen-year-old who is a four-time winner of the Scorpio Races, and Puck (Kate) Connolly, a first-time rider (and first female rider). Sean is the dark, brooding, strong and silent type while Kate is spirited and full of pluck. Both have lost loved ones to the cappail uisce, yet both respect the creatures and the races. Their stories run parallel for quite some time until Kate joins the race just to spite her brother Gabe. Race day, for both, becomes much more than just crossing the finish line because, for each, there is more at stake than they had originally thought.
Mythical and breathtaking, the landscape of Thisby is just as prominent a character as are Sean and Puck. It’s easy to understand why some want to leave the island but just as easy to understand why others would stay. As someone who spent a good amount of time, way back in 1995, in the Scottish isles, I fell in love with Thisby as much as I did Sean and Puck.
If you are going to read The Scorpio Races, and believe me, you should, I cannot say enough about the audio book (I recommend Audible). It is twelve hours long, so I hope you have lots of car time, but Steve West and Fiona Hardingham are brilliant performers, well worth your time. I cannot imagine Sean or Puck any other way. If I could just get Steve West to narrate my inner monologue, I’d listen to my thoughts all day long.