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Stiefvater Crafts a Race for Self

Title: The Scorpio Races

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Length: 416 pages

Imagine a horse race in which the riders are more likely to get injured than the horses and where the horses are more than horses. Every November, some riders race to win while others race to survive. Sean Kendrick and Puck Connolly live on a remote island where the mythical water horse is an everyday part of existence. Nineteen and already stoic, Sean keeps his emotions and opinions to himself, training water-horses for the island’s wealthiest inhabitant. As the four-time winner of The Scorpio Races, Sean has little to do but prepare and defend his title. Puck Connolly never intended to ride in the races. Her parents were killed by water horses and she and her brothers are struggling to make ends meet. But life on Thisby is difficult and Puck only has one choice if she and her brothers are to stay together. She must race. Puck and Sean’s paths cross on entrance day and there’s is a relationship of convenience and circumstance. However,  as the races draw closer both have to decide what sacrifices they will make and how to define who they really are in order to stay together and win the race.

BRIDGE:  This novel would work well to discuss character change. Puck is plucky and headstrong with just the right amount of self-doubt. Using character, one could bridge this  novel to Chopin’s The Awakening. Puck’s struggle with discovering what it means to be a woman in a world of men is a classic struggle of trying to stay true to herself when the world is telling her to change. Stiefvater creates  enigmatic character in Sean who is at once who is at once strong and heartbreakingly vulnerable. Some of his character traits are reminiscent of Mr. Rochester in Wuthering Heights perhaps without the self-loathing. And Sean too must come to grips with who he is and decide what he wants in order to make a place for himself (possibly with Puck) and on Thisby.

This novel is beautifully written. The sense of place and the lyrical quality to the writing is mesmerizing. One could use this novel to discuss setting as well. Thisby is striking in its environment both in description and its hold on the characters. Using setting, one could bridge this novel to Wuthering Heights or, for younger readers, Tuck Everlasting.

READERS: This book appeals to fantasy fans and fans of Stiefvater’s other books. In addition, readers who enjoy books set in the past will enjoy the hints of early 20th century setting. Readers who like horses would love this book.  The book’s split narrative will appeal to both make and female readers and adults and young readers alike will find elements to enjoy.

OTHER TITLES: Readers who enjoy this book would also enjoy Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children  by Ransom Riggs or Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Both of these books rely heavily on setting and strong characters.

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