This review was originally posted on amazon on May 30, 2012:
Maggie Stiefvater is a master wordsmith, and a lovely story-teller.
I have previously read her Wolves of Mercy Falls series and her Gathering of Faerie series. In my opinion, this book leaves both of those series behind in terms of sheer gorgeousness.
Scorpio Races is set in an indeterminate time, on a fictional island off the coast of Ireland. The waterhorses make landfall every year in October/November, where they are captured by the islanders and raced in the annual Scorpio Races, for a, by island standards, lucrative purse. But these waterhorses are based upon the Celtic myth of the Kelpie, and they are carnivorous beasts who will kill a man (or sheep or other horse) as soon as they will look at them.
The main character, a girl named Kate, nicknamed Puck, is a plucky orphan who decides that she will race, and win, the Scorpio Races, in an effort to save her family from ruin. Like many island children, she has lost a parent - her father - to the races. Because in these races, men often die. She is the first girl to enter the Scorpio Races, and the islanders are displeased with her unwillingness to go along with the status quo.
Postives: As I said previously, Maggie Stiefvater can write. I loved the main character, Puck, as well as the supporting characters, including the boy who ends up being her love interest. We are, thankfully, spared the annoyingly ubiquitous love triangle in favor of a believable and heartwarming romance that unfolds naturally over the course of the book. The setting is also well-drawn. The author convincingly depicts the hardscrabble life of the islanders. I enjoyed the fact that the book is of indeterminate time - it could be dystopian, it could be the relatively recent past (cars are present). If I had to guess, I would venture that it is set sometime in the 1940's, as it has a rather WWII feel to it.
This is also a book about a relationship between a girl and her beloved Island pony, Dove, and a boy and his waterhorse. I am a horse owner, with a horse crazy daughter, and I found the relationship between Puck and Dove to be beautifully rendered and sweet. The ending of the book is bittersweet, but still very satisfying.
Negatives: I really loved this book. I can't think of anything about it I didn't like, and it seems silly to strain myself to do so just to increase my reviewer cred.
Ultimately, I would probably buy a cereal box if Maggie Stiefvater wrote the copy for it. Even if I really hated the cereal inside the box.