The Scorpio Races
I read about The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater, at Things Mean a Lot, and got interested because Ana says it’s about small communities, among other things. Having lived in the Washington DC suburbs before I moved to small-town Ohio, it took me a while to get used to some of the customs, like looking inside a car to see who is driving it or allowing time during grocery shopping for catching up on what other peoples’ children are doing.
The main characters of this YA novel, Kate (nicknamed Puck) and Sean live on Thisby, a fictional island. Kate says “Thisby’s tiny: four thousand people on a rocky crag jutting from the sea, hours from the mainland. It’s all cliffs and horses and sheep and one-track roads winding past treeless fields to Skarmouth, the largest town on the island.” Everyone on Thisby knows each other, at least by family name or reputation. It sounds a lot like the village where I work, population 2,408 with a college of about 1,600 students. Everyone knows something about everyone else.
There are terrible, magical horses that arise from the sea around Thisby in November. Bloodthirsty creatures, they can sometimes be tamed enough to ride, and that’s what happens in the scorpio races. Aside from the magical aspect, this is a horse book, very much like Misty of Chincoteague or King of the Wind. Two plucky young orphans who love their horses above all else find each other. There is no one like them, because no one else can possibly love and understand horses, real or magical, as well as they do.
The magical horses are called capaill uisce, and Sean’s horse is one of these; his name is Corr. Kate’s horse is one of the regular kind, and her name is Dove. At one point Sean explains that “uisce stallions generally prefer to view land horses as meals, not mates, but sometimes a particular mare will take a stallion’s fancy.”
The plot hinges on the fact that Sean needs to win the scorpion race so he can buy his horse from its owner and Kate needs to win so she can buy her family’s house from its owner (the owner in both cases is the same man, the richest islander). As the first female to sign up for the race, Kate also has to fight against male prejudice, and all the women are rooting for her.
Before the big race, we see how the capall uisce of a fallen rider is given back to the sea: “the mare lifts her hooves high as the water courses in around her pasterns and then she cries out to the sea. There is something not quite horselike about her eyes already.”
Who wins the race? If you’ve ever read a horse book before, I expect you know the basic outline of how it all turns out. The actions of one person affect everyone because, well, no man is an island.
Did you have a favorite horse book, growing up?