Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Series: Standalone
Genre: You're guess is as good as mine!
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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.

Warning: Bloody, gory death of multiple animals. And humans, though who really cares about that?

Honestly, four times this book made me feel sick. Truly nauseous. If you, like me, are a soft touch when it comes to animal death (including horses, so, no, I do not recommend this for 'horse lovers') and hate seeing mutilated animals or those in pain, don't read this book!

Now, on to the review.

This book is not at all what I expected it to be. I thought it would be about the Races - kind of like a Hidalgo (movie) that took place over an entire island. A huge, multi-legged race that was half skill, half speed and half endurance.

It isn't. The 'races' are short, beach races and the longest is two and a quarter miles long. It's kind of a strange 'survival of the fittest' idea, because endurance plays no part, skill, almost none and speed, very little. And the 'races' (which we know absolutely NOTHING about the shorter ones) don't start until the book is nearly over.

I thought the 'water horses' would be actual horses made from water and barely held together by the rider's magic - and if the rider's concentration would slip for just a moment 'poof' the horse would disintegrate and the race would be over for that rider.

Instead, the 'water horses' are some wild, carnivorous beasts that come up out of the sea every October - that, until I heard someone else compare them to a kelpie, I had no clue what they were even trying to be.

I'm a bit ashamed at how much the idea that I might be mistaken for a boy distresses me.

This really kicks me, because the first several times I heard about the book - and even after I bought it - I thought this girl disguised herself as a boy to race. Instead, we have Puck - real name, Kate - who is abrasive and hypocritical and always angry about something and pretty much everything I dislike in main characters. Sean is…a quieter, more stuck-up version of her. Honestly, I didn't like either of them and thought that their 'voices' sounded exactly alike. (More on that later.) And the 'romance'? Laughable.

There were two people in the whole book I liked: Finn (Puck's little brother) and George Holly (a horse buyer from America). That's it. The rest of the people were either unpleasant or nothingness to me.

I've told you most of what I had problems with - now I'll tell you why.

The writing.

This story is told in first person rotating with present tense. I don't like first person. Seldom can I get fully immersed in a first person POV book. (It has happened, but it's hard.) And I hate present tense with a fiery passion. I NEVER get fully immersed in a book that's told in present tense - and I'm pretty sure the only time I truly enjoyed a book in this tense was when it was an audio book.

I'm constantly getting pulled out of the story because I find present tense so incredibly jarring and I have this overwhelming urge to pull out an ink pin and 'correct' the tense usage.

And then there's my problem with first person perspective. It's troublesome enough for me when it doesn't rotate between two or more characters. But if it does rotate, the author had batter make certain that the characters have distinct, unique voices. Honestly, I have to say thank goodness for short chapters, because otherwise I might have never known who was narrating in this book because they sound EXACTLY alike.

This is my own personal preference, but when I can't get immersed in the story, I'm much more likely to find fault. (And, honestly, I know everyone loves Stiefvater's writing, but I find it too flowery for me. I prefer something much more straight forward.)

Early one, there were several things that didn't make sense to me. Like Puck's reasoning/decision to race. It came off abrupt and would have worked much better in my opinion if the second reason for her doing this had become the first.

Also, I want to know why the horses come out of the water in October - and how, if they are WATER HORSES, they can stay alive without living in the water for years. Are they amphibians?

"I want to go home," Daly tells me, voice miserable. "No game is worth this."

And, most importantly, who in the world saw these wild, carnivorous horses coming up out of the ocean one day and thought 'I'm going to ride it - better yet, let's start a race with them when they're at their most wild and hungry'? Whoever came up with that idea needs their head examined. I think the island is full of suicidal people. Besides, who puts up the money for the winners? It sure doesn't seem to be coming from anyone on the island because - except one person - most of them don't seem to be wealthy and a four time winner - who only gets 1/8 of the winners purse - could buy ten thoroughbred horses. So that's not chump change.

I know all this will sound like I hated the book. I didn't. (Except when they were mutilating another animal.) I just have no feelings for it other than 'well, I could have been reading something better.' I feel that very little changed from the start of the book and that it was just a waste - both of my time and a story idea that I could have liked.