It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.
At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.
Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.
Publishes in US: October 18th 2011 by Scholastic Press
Genre: YA fantasy
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I wanted to read this one because I have enjoyed Maggie's other books and I have heard exceptional things about it. I have been reading so many contemporaries because I wasn't paying attention with scheduling since I usually alternate and I needed a break into the paranormal fantasy world, and this did it for me.
There are two characters that we get the perspective from, and while I have a feeling there will be some romance, it didn't start out that way. It showed us the tremendous losses the characters have experienced, both have lost parents, and are on the poor end of the spectrum, doing what they have to to survive. Kate aka Puck lives with her three brothers, and they scrape by after both of their parents were killed by the water horses that the island they live on survives because of. The tourist season during the races allows the community to survive year round. On the other hand, Sean has been racing in the races since he was really young, and now he is working with the big man on the island, the Maverns who own the stables for both regular horses and the water horses. Sean has such a touch with the animals and he helps train them.
The world building was great. I could picture their island of Thisby, and the terrifying at times horses from the sea. The sense of community but at the same time the isolation because everyone there has been touched by loss from the sea or the horses, but there are those that can't even imagine a different life somewhere else.
The plot was wonderfully placed, the mix of action and focus on characters kept my interest and I didn't want to put it down. I was in a bit of a reading slump, tired out of contemporary and then starting and not feeling multiple fantasies and paranormals. The great writing and characterization hooked me even when I was a bit skeptical over the lore of the horses. All of that skepticism fell away and I ended up enjoying a lot.
The cast of secondary characters were really well done as well. From Holly an American who comes for buying horses and to watch the races becomes close to Sean. Dory is the woman in charge of the betting and she takes up with Puck even though she tries at first to discourage her from racing. Puck's brothers Gabe and Finn all have a family dynamic that I enjoyed reading about. Finn was the younger and he seemed to have a bit of mental instability but then came through in big ways for Puck and the family when you least expect it. He is sweet, and works hard at some things, and there are times when I thought he didn't really know what was going on, but then showed himself capable and very competent. Gabe is wanting to leave the island and Puck can't really comprehend why because she loves the island, and she has such a close bond with her horse Dove. She tried to get Gabe to stay by declaring she was going to enter the races.
The Malverns, son Mutt who has it out for Sean, and the owner Benjamin who I couldn't get a clear read on, seemingly a villan because he is sticking to money, and then other times, seeming to give away that he knows Mutt isn't fit to take over for him, and Sean has such a way with the horses.
Sean and Puck did grow close, first with mutual respect for how they both cared for their horses beyond what others considered normal or natural. Then they recognized the attraction and fought it for all sorts of reasons. And then they helped each other, confided in each other, and their bond deepened. It never really got hot between the two but there was the promise.
I loved the growth of the two and the building suspense that carried through to the end. Speaking of the ending, it wasn't what I expected. I thought it would turn out differently, but I wasn't disappointed. It makes a lot of sense the way that she did it, and the twists that were hinted at looking back. I do wish that there was an epilogue. It made a fine ending, but I wanted things a bit more tied down for the "after." I scoured her site and the book's website but can't find anything about a sequel or an extra with a few months or years later for Sean and Puck, and I think if I had that it would be a full 5 instead of 4 1/2.
My question to you, my lovely readers:
Could you ride in a race where you might lose your life?