The Scorpio Races – Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic Press, 2011
Every November, the water horses come out of the wild sea. Every year, the islanders of Thisby race them on the beach, and every year someone will die. When Sean Kenrick was ten years old, the race claimed his father, but still he rides and for four years running he has fought his way through the bloody tangle to win, earning the respect of his employer Malvern and the festering resentment of Malvern’s son. The sea, and the race, are in Sean’s blood. Then Puck Connolly appears on the beach, riding a land horse that everyone knows cannot possibly win against the creatures of the water. A strange alliance forms between them – Sean, the rider with one foot on the land and one in the sea, and Puck, the first girl to ever compete in the Scorpio Races – but only one can win.
I have always loved the legends of water horses, and this book captures the spirit of those folk tales with incredible skill, weaving creatures of sea and storm into the lives of ordinary humans, if that is what you can call islanders like the people of Thisby, who exist in a precarious juxtaposition between ancient tradition and the outside, increasingly modernised world. The two protagonists, Sean and Puck, have strong voices that are full of personality, and the plot moves at an excellent pace, giving you time to enjoy the view without ever losing direction. If it ends up being the first in a series, then that is a series I will have to read, but to my mind it stands alone as brilliantly crafted piece of storytelling.