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.
I can’t take this novel seriously. I’m sorry, I just can’t. Seeing all my friends raving about The Scorpio Races makes me laugh out loud. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a bad novel, not at all. I enjoyed it immensely and had a lot of fun with it, some of it unintentional. Because it is, and there’s no way to sugar-coat it, a horse novel to a T. It’s so cliché, it can’t get any more cliché.
As a horse novel aficionada, I adored almost everything about this novel. Everything except the plot, that is. Unfortunately, there is no ingenuity whatsoever. Instead, this novel hits all the beats someone vaguely familiar with horse novel tropes – anyone who has read or seen five novels or films – knows by heart. And because we’ve got two perspectives, we can even double the trope fun:
On the one hand, we’ve got a protagonist who’s a plain Jane with excellent horsewomanship. Said protagonist is in dire need of money to save something close to her heart. To obtain said money, she enters a competition as the ultimate underdog.
On the other hand, we’ve got a protagonist who’s without means but can handle horses so much better than anyone else and thus works for a wealthy stable owner. There’s a dangerous – read: misunderstood – horse said protagonist has a special connection with. When said horse is in danger, the protagonist starts a desperate attempt to save it by obtaining its ownership.
I’ve read those kinds of plots – or varieties thereof, you can pretty much just mix and match – with normal horses, ghost horses, and magical horses. Making it carnivorous water horses isn’t much of an innovation – although I do love me some carnivorous water horses! They are fun! And beautifully dark!
While the lack of originality in plot had me a little disappointed, everything else surely made up for it. The writing is wonderful and creates a palpable atmosphere with its tone, setting, and general idea: It’s November, we’re on a rough, windswept island and there’s a dangerous traditional race to the death ahead of us. I was soon swept away. I also really came to like the characters both human and equine and really liked their quirks, traits and especially their dynamics.
I do recommend this novel. Those not into horse novels will find a powerful horsey fantasy novel and those into horse novels will find a powerful fantastic horse novel. There’s something for everyone here.